Social Geometry / Architecture of Play

Social Geometry Experiment 2008/11/13
Royal College of Arts, London, UK. About 7 people.

Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. About 10 people.

linear network
CCCB, Barcelona, Spain. About 35 people.

In the last years I have been exploring the relation between social networks and architecture. Or how we can embody social networks to understand them better, and why not generate a new type of architecture that would live through these changes and improve human interactions. I conducted these groups experiments

  • outside of the Royal College of Art, in Hyde Park, London UK.
  • Miller Galery at Carneggie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA
  • CCCB Barcelona, Spain.
  • Workshop on “Environmental Governance,” Design & Environment, Goldsmiths University, London UK.
  • And I am looking for new groups of people interested in exploring this in different cultural contexts.


The fact is that the therm social Geometry has been in used since 1976 by the American Prof. of Social Science Donald Black in the book “The Behavior of Law”. A well written and concise wikipedia article presents the matter. Some attribute the origins of Social Geometry to the works of Georg Simmel , Emile Durkheim or Pierre Bourdieu. However D. Black approach seems to take into account clear variables that are “usable” more directly in the generation of physical social networks :
  • horizontal/morphological (the extent and frequency of interaction among participants)
  • vertical (the unequal distribution of resources)
  • corporate (the degree of organization, or of integration of individuals into organizations)
  • cultural (the amount and frequency of symbolic expressions)
  • and normative (the extent of previously being the target of social control)

Extending the legacy

Black refers to this multi-dimensional amalgam as “social space“. My personal interest is to temporarily dissolve these “social controllers” and let them re-emerge and reconfigure in large-scale choreographic experiments, in the form of ephemeral architecture, that I call “Architecture of Play.

architecture-of-play01 architecture-of-play02 architecture-of-play03architecture-of-play04 architecture-of-play05

In the illustration above, you can see different stages to the generation of a social network :

  1. randomly moving disconnected individuals
  2. Linear network : one line connecting all actors.
  3. Branched Network
  4. Complex Network
  5. Voronoi Cells
  6. Arches
  7. Membranes

And as constructed model :

random  branched network complex network making of approximate voronoi cells voronoi cells -> arches voronoi cells -> arches-nb Arches, crystalizing social networks voronoi cells -> arches Architecture of play, arches in construction Architecture of play, arches in construction architecture of play in the garden Architecture of Play

Essentially we’re doing the same thing as the video above, Delauney triangulation :

A simple set of instruction to generate complex behaviors and networks

instructions social geometry

These were the simple choreographic instructions I would give to the group. Updated instructions here.

Network Topography & Topologies (computer Sciences)

Network Topologies

The study of network topology recognises eight basic topologies:[5]

  • Point-to-point
  • Bus
  • Star
  • Ring or circular
  • Mesh
  • Tree
  • Hybrid
  • Daisy chain
But every single topology can be arranged in a way that tells a totally different story in the context of human architecture.
6 module structure, floating garden research

Complexity, Function & Play

Needless is to say that networks are not formed arbitrarily.
The exemple below is a neural network.  On the left : INPUTS, on the right : a single OUTPUT.

Neural Network

Where more complex networks might provide multiple answers simultaneously :


And this is an network of human contributors to a wikipedia article : many to one.

Gloabl Warming WIki Network

This is the physical reality of our information network, the internet:

Cisco Internet map

And this how the internet sees itself, as data nodes:
Map of the Internet

In fact the best resource I found to be up to date about visualisation of complex network is

Visual Complexity

Formation, growth, Reconfiguration, Resilience and Decay

Based on the 7 basic network topologies, I made some sketches of network growth. Really rough at this stage :

This is how I assigned the colours to different network topologies.

I designed 7 main ways of giving instructions to have people develop specified network topologies:

Physical Social Network Programming

Social network growth ” “5 years of Linux kernel development in Git” – Teaser”

The Connected States of America, MIT SenseableCityLab :

TrashTrack, MIT Senseable City Lab:

Non-human networks (visual inspiration)

Neural growth :

Barabassi Lab

Controlability of Complex Networks, Mauro Martino

Self Organisation :

Ensembles growth :

Network Growth animation :

Characterisation of Node (people) & Connections (lines)

  • Male / Female
  • Young / Old
  • Big / small
  • White / black / other
  • variations in activity
  • variation in “attractiveness”
  • variation in character : shy / outgoing
  • Long / short
  • Tensed / loose
  • stiff / elastic
  • White / coloured / bright
  • Immaterial / Material
  • Soft / hard
Small to Big
  • bathroom {closed}
  • bedroom
  • dinner room / kitchen
  • living room
  • terrace {open}
  • street
  • avenue
  • square
  • forest
  • open field
  • mountain
  • sea
  • outer space
By combining a variety of characters, types of lines and environment, we can produce an infinity of narratives.


Intimacy -> global network

Poking in the internet

Young and Old

breaking Social Boundaries

French romance

Love Distant call


Psychology of Space


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