Nikos Salingaros

Biology, the City, and Responsible Design
Question and Answer

Nikos A. Salingaros is regarded as one of the world’s leading urbanists and architectural theorists. His books “Principles of Urban Structure” and “A Theory of Architecture” provide the foundation for a completely new approach to the built environment. They are being translated into several languages, and are used by students, professionals, and governments to redesign cities and to define once again an architecture adapted to human beings. Dr. Salingaros is invited to give keynote addresses at international conferences on urbanism and planning. For his contributions to architecture, he was elected member of the International College of Traditional Practitioners, whose patron is His Royal Highness Charles, The Prince of Wales. Dr. Salingaros is directing student theses at universities around the world, and is involved as a consultant on architectural and urban projects.

Dr. Salingaros has derived rules that underlie a living architecture, and which support, but do not simply copy the great architectures of the past. Because these rules are often the opposite of what fashionable architects and critics promote nowadays, his results have sparked off a heated controversy in the architectural media. Fortunately, his results come from mathematics and science and are thus verifiable; not something that can be said of mainstream architectural theory during the past seventy years. He has thus exposed a conflict between results derived outside the architectural establishment, and what architects have been taught to believe for several decades. This conflict is presented in his highly controversial (and best-selling) book “Anti-architecture and Deconstruction”.

Dr. Salingaros is professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is also on the architecture faculties of the University of Rome III and the Delft University of Technology. He is consultant to the Schools of Architecture of the Catholic University of Portugal, Viseu, and the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico. Dr. Salingaros is Associate Editor of Katarxis III — an online journal of New Architecture, New Science, and New Urbanism; the Nexus Network Journal; and the Online Planning Journal. He is on the Committee of Honor, International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism — INTBAU, London; on the board of Advisors of the Institute for Studies in Sacred Architecture — ISSA, Berkeley, California; a member of the editorial board of Resource for Urban Design Information — RUDI, Oxford; and is a consultant to the Urban Land Institute, Washington, D.C.

After an early career as an artist, in which he successfully staged numerous exhibitions of his paintings, he obtained a Ph. D. in theoretical physics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook under the supervision of Professor Max Dresden. He studied with three physics Nobel Prize winners: Professor Paul Dirac in Miami, Professor Chen-Ning Yang in Stony Brook, and later with Professor S. Chandrasekhar in Chicago. During this part of his career, he made contributions to mathematical physics, relativistic field theory, and thermonuclear fusion. The author of more than fifty strictly scientific publications, he served as associate editor for two journals and refereed for fourteen others. He gave over 100 invited seminars and conference talks on his scientific research before turning to architecture and urbanism.

In 1983, Dr. Salingaros began collaborating with Christopher Alexander, helping to edit Alexander’s monumental book “The Nature of Order”. This interaction inspired an entirely new direction of research, using science and mathematics to describe aspects of nature that are traditionally regarded as being in the domain of art. Such phenomena had so far eluded a scientific explanation. Dr. Salingaros applied insights gained from complex physical systems to better understand cities and buildings.

Dr. Salingaros’ first publication in architecture in 1995 marked the beginning of an exciting new career, which quickly eclipsed his earlier one. His papers in architecture and urbanism have been translated into Catalan, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. In recognition of his efforts in building a scientific understanding for architecture and urbanism, he was awarded a Grant by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in 1997 — the first ever for research on this topic. He has appeared as a guest on National Public Radio, and has been interviewed by several magazines. He is a champion of the New Urbanism, combining it with new exigencies of the developing “network city”. Dr. Salingaros gained worldwide notice when he predicted the end of the skyscraper era, in an essay written together with James Howard Kunstler.

Emerging as an articulate and devastating critic of modernist, postmodernist, and deconstructivist styles of building and thought, he proposes in their place a humanistic architecture for the new millennium. His work is seen by many as forging a crucial connection between innovative ideas for a new architecture, and the timeless content of traditional architectures. He is respected for providing a powerful boost for traditional architecture and urbanism as exemplified by the work of Léon Krier and others, while connecting it to the very different, complementary contributions of Christopher Alexander. To some, Dr. Salingaros’ role is to be the theoretician of a loosely-defined but determined group of new architects who wish to reconnect humanity with so much that was lost in the twentieth century.