Book Review: Animate Form by Greg Lynn

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Book Review: Animate Form by Greg Lynn

Animate Form composed by Greg Lynn, is a book that challenges the design approaches of architecture in 1999s .In the book, he discussed how architects deal to their building with static. He defines the term of “animation” as an evolution of a form and the force which shaping the form by implying animalism, animism, growth, actuation, vitality and virtuality. Lynn was trying to create a system that projected forces are acting over the form themselves by introducing the practice of animation and motion graphic software in his design development. He further expresses his argument by using the examples from automobiles and boats and states that the design approaches of their forms are directly related to the force received by the vehicles. Through introducing his idea of inverse kinetic in architecture form, Lynn emphasize his argument by challenging the ways how architects approach in their design process. He contends that animation can assist in the building designs that deal with complicated force of gravity which had once disinterest by the architects. Besides, he also illustrate a series of example from his previous works to show the progressions of how animated forms shaped by forces with the final result as to support his own argument. As what Lynn mentioned the computation design process of virtual space in the book, it enables designer to explain and justify the complex based form of calculus even their understanding and knowledge are limited. Here, Lynn had taken advantages of the historical examples such as the study of curvature by Entienne-Jules Marey and the case study of Quattro Fontane by Francesco Borromini to explain his thought processes on how he came to the idea of animation and the limitations in order to attain their qualities in form design

  1. Greg Lynn (1991) Animate Form. New York. Princeton Architectural Press. Pp. 9
  2. Ibid. Pp. 10

Moreover, Lynn state the geometries forms shaped by Baroque structures was previously characterized wrongly as form that are built up by continuous stream of relative value and fundamentally the spline defined in his computational design should categorized similar with them3. Lynn further explains the static relationship between composite curves and eclipses will be created when the forms of Baroque geometric adhered to central radii (Figure 1.1), while spline geometry that adopt in computer-aid design process enable vectors to operate and regulate through control vertices (Figure 1.2)4.Lynn also tried to analyses how Baroque architecture deal with complex curve designs in order to study the nature and properties of splines in computer animation design as well as the limitations of static system.

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Figure 1.1 (Source: Animate Form by Greg Lynn) Figure 1.2(Source: Animate Form by Greg Lynn)

  1. Ibid. Pp. 20
  2. Ibid. Pp. 20

He uses the research of curvature carry out by Entienne-Jules Marey as precedent to support his statement of computation animation in relation to space and time. Through the ideas that had been fully utilized into the issues of animation, Lynn successfully creates credibility to his argument. Marey described by Lynn as one of the pioneer morphologist to move away from the form study of inert Cartesian space toward the research of rhythms, movements, pulses ,flows and their effects on form as time passed5. Figure 2 is an image that showing research of movement illustrated by Marey. He was trying to snapshot a continual series of imageries that captured from the motion of a horse’s limb. This method is then adopted by Lynn and frequently uses in snapshotting series of imageries in his generated animation. According to Lynn, everything that designed for function should comply with the surrounding acting forces.


Figure 2(Source: Animate Form by Greg Lynn)

  1. Ibid. Pp. 26

Lynn starts to emphasize his architecture discourse by comparing with others in order to draw a confrontation with the industries that leading in the technological of design development. He believe that architects are strongly influenced by the development of how vehicles such as cars, boats as well as planes to deal with surrounding force and that is why they started to work on their conceptual development in an ideal static condition of Cartesian coordinate system6. Lynn also state that a structure will not perform at its optimal qualities if the systems that used to facilitate the static design are designed at the purpose that are totally ignoring the acting forces over them.

During and before the time he wrote and published this book, he had against the ways of design by most of the architects by reviewing the collaborative perception in both special-effects software and contemporary animation .He contend that they should able to draw other people to treat them as tools that assist in the design development instead of being a device for rendering, visualization and imaging7. Here, Lynn had effectively promotes his argument through the precedents he mentioned as these example are easy to be understood. According to Lynn, it was very hard to achieve a design that can be anticipated with the surrounding acting force. Therefore, he further illustrates his idea through the anticipation of inverse kinetic used in the precedent of a sailing boat8. Lynn state that the form of the boat will not change but just having multiplicity of vectors in the form which allow the boat to deal with the forces in the water when it is on sailing. Due to the similar cultural features and attributes, these references of technological had successfully explained Lynn‘s arguments and eventually caused him easier to employ these concepts into his architectural idea.

  1. Ibid. Pp. 11
  2. Ibid. Pp. 11
  3. Ibid. Pp. 10

In this book “Animated form”, Lynn had used almost half of it to describe and illustrate his idea through his own previous works. Here, Lynn’s argument can be clearly and crucially explained through these examples because his proposed statement of theories can only be presented and demonstrate in a practical application way. Among the example he illustrate, the most interesting works he shown is the Port Authority Triple Bridge Gateway which is a competition entry that designed by using forces to simulate the flow of movement with different densities and speeds of pedestrians and traffic that crossed the site (Figure3.). In this example, geometric particle that represent the force were described by Lynn as “invisible attraction field on site”. The animation movement of the particles is then captured in a series of images and eventually that where the design form of bridge is coming from. Moreover, Lynn also found that tensile properties of geometry form can be used in simulating the gravitational force in the virtual space which allowed gravity resistance forms created through the path of animation. The works of the Port Authority Triple Bridge Gateway had efficiently support his argument that forms of design will evolve constantly in order to respond with the their surrounding acting forces.

Figure3. (Source:

  1. Ibid. Pp. 10310. Ibid. Pp. 103

According to Lynn, designers and architects will still remained have the chance to involve in a design even the animation are utilized in a project. He argues that architect should fully engage with computational animation as a prevailing tool in designing instead of letting it to grab away creativity choice of the designer11. In order to strengthen his argument, he compares his approaches with other design theorists in the architecture discourse that having the similar topic yet different opinions. By doing this, he was able to further highlight his argument and aligns himself with other idealist experts.

Besides, Lynn also argues that even nowadays computer are becoming omnipotent in the process of designing, but they are still not capable to design by their own. In order to strengthen his argument, he dispute the idea of John Frazer and Karl Chu who are the design theorists that claim that computers are creative enough and have the capability to generate genetic design strategies by themselves12. Here, Lynn had design a parameter in order to deal with the computational design at the same time defending himself from other critics whom might think that computational animation had taken over the design works from architects. According to Lynn, he believe computer should use as a tool in processes of designing but not as what Frazer and Chu had argued that let the computers to design by themselves .Thus, this contrast had allows Lynn to present the important role of computational animation that played in architectural design .He also mentioned that designers should treat their computer like a pet because if the wildness of design processes were controlled and disciplined, it will enable one to predict the if behavior or performance of computational design system and the mathematics behind them13 .

  1. Ibid. Pp. 19
  2. Ibid. Pp. 19
  3. Ibid. Pp. 20

Greg Lynn is a theoretical architect and philosopher that develop the architectural concept of animated based form and performativity based architecture. Even though “Animate form” had published long ago in 1999s, it had still effectively foreseen and argues the contribution to the development of computational design in architecture nowadays. Lynn had well reinforced and utilized his idea in the development of architecture sector through comparing and contrasting the different ideologies that are either recognize or refute with his statement. Through the examples and forms taken from his previous works, Lynn able to argue the relationship between capabilities of animation to intimate the force and how can be the form shaped in order responds to the force. Lynn successfully explored the strength of computational animation design in the architectural advancement at the same time providing a whole new perspectives and opportunity in design processes.



Greg Lynn. (1991). Animate Form. New York. Princeton Architectural.

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