Open Source Architecture

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Open Source Architecture, concept and specific website

See also Wikipedia article on OSArc [1]


= Open Source Architecture (OSArc) is an emerging paradigm describing new procedures for the design, construction and operation of buildings, infrastructure and spaces. Drawing from references as diverse as open-source culture, avant-garde architectural theory, science fiction, language theory, and others, it describes an inclusive approach to spatial design, a collaborative use of design software and the transparent operation throughout the course of a building and city's life cycle.


"OSArc is not only involved with production; reception to a given project—critical, public, client, peer-related—can often form part of the project itself, creating a feedback loop that can ground—or unmoor—a project's intention and ultimately becomes part of it, with both positive and negative consequences. OSArc supersedes architectures of static geometrical form with the introduction of dynamic and participatory processes, networks, and systems. Its proponents see it as distinguished by code over mass, relationships over compositions, networks over structures, adaptation over stasis. Its purpose is to transform architecture from a top-down immutable delivery mechanism into a transparent, inclusive and bottom-up ecological system— even if it still includes top-down mechanisms.

OSArc relies upon amateurs as much as experienced professionals—the genius of the mass as much as that of the individual—eroding the binary distinction between author and audience. Like social software, it recognises the core role of multiple users at every stage of the process—whether as clients or communities, designers or occupants; at its best, it harnesses powerful network effects to scale systems effectively. It is typically democratic, enshrining principles of open access and participation, though political variations may range from stealth authoritarianism to communitarian consensualism.

Open Source Architecture revolutionises every step of the traditional building process, from brief-building to demolition, programming to adaptive reuse." (


"Design: Mass customisation replaces standardisation as algorithms enable the generation of related but differentiated species of design objects. Parametric design tools like Grasshopper, Generative Components, Revit and Digital Project enable new user groups to interact with, navigate and modify the virtual designs, and to test and experience arrays of options at unprecedented low cost—recognising laypeople as design decision-making agents rather than just consumers. Opensource codes and scripts enable design communities to share and compare information and collectively optimise production through modular components, accelerating the historical accumulation of shared knowledge. BIM (Building Information Modelling) and related collaboration tools and practices enable cross-disciplinary co-location of design information and integration of a range of platforms and timescales. Rapid prototyping and other 3D printing technologies enable instant production of physical artefacts, both representational and functional, even on an architectural scale, to an ever-wider audience.

Construction: The burgeoning Open Source Hardware movement enables sharing of and collaboration on the hardware involved in designing kinetic or smart environments that tightly integrate software, hardware and mechanisms. Sensor data brings live inputs to inert material and enables spaces to become protoorganic in operation; design becomes an ongoing, evolutionary process, as opposed to the one-off, disjointed fire-and-forget methodology of traditional architecture. Operating systems emerge to manage the design, construction and occupancy phases, created as open platforms that foster and nourish a rich ecosystem of "apps". Various practices jostle to become the Linux, Facebook or iTunes of architectural software, engaging in "platform plays" on different scales rather than delivery of plans and sections. Embedded sensing and computing increasingly mesh all materials within the larger "Internet of things", evolving ever closer towards Bruce Sterling's vision of a world of spimes. Materials communicate their position and state during fabrication and construction, aiding positioning, fixing and verification, and continue to communicate with distributed databases for the extent of their lifetime.

Occupancy: OSArc enables inhabitants to control and shape their personal environment—"to Inhabit is to Design", as John Habraken put it. Fully sentient networked spaces constantly communicate their various properties, states and attributes—often through decentralised and devolved systems. System feedback is supplied by a wide range of users and occupants, often either by miniature electronic devices or mobile phones— crowd-sourcing (like crowd-funding) large volumes of small data feeds to provide accurate and expansive real-time information. Personalisation replaces standardisation as spaces "intelligently" recognise and respond to individual occupants. Representations of spaces become as vital after construction as they were before; real-time monitoring, feedback and ambient display become integral elements to the ongoing life of spaces and objects. Maintenance and operations become extended inseparable phases of the construction process; a building is never "complete" in OSArc's world of growth and change. If tomorrow's buildings and cities will now be more like computers—than machines—to live in, OSArc provides an open, collaborative framework for writing their operating software." (


"A contemporary form of open-source vernacular is the Open Architecture Network launched by Architecture for Humanity, which replaces traditional copyright restrictions with Creative Commons licensing and allows open access to blueprints. Wider OSArc relies on a digital commons and the shared spaces of the World Wide Web to enable instantaneous collaboration beyond more established models of competition and profit. Traditional architectural tools like drawings and plans are supplemented and increasingly replaced by interactive software applications using relational data and parametric connectivity." (

More Information

— M. Fuller, U. Haque, "Urban Versioning System 1.0", in Situated Technologies Pamphlet Series, Architectural League of New York, New York City 2008 [2]

— U. Haque, Open Source Architecture Experiment, 2003-05 [3]

— D. Kaspori, "A Communism of Ideas: towards an architectural open source practice", in Archis, 2003 [4]

—Open Building Network / Working Commission W104, "Open Building Implementation" of the CIB, The International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (meets in a different country every year since its first meeting in Tokyo in 1994) [5]


“This weblog has been created as a result of the article A communism of ideas, towards an architectural open source practice. It proposes a reorganization of architectural practice in order to deal with the diminshing role of the architect in spatial planning issues. Instead of continuing the battle of egos this weblog sets out to explore new models of cooperation that can reinvent architectural practice and develop innovative spatial models at the same time."

More in the article, ‘towards an architectural open source practice, at and see also the blog In the New York Times Magazine, David Brooks has written an interesting article describing the development of exurbia, a move beyond the suburbs that seems to exhibit P2P principles, see .

Update: In May 2006, the weblog did not seem to be updated, and the original essay were no longer available.