Lunchtime Talk

Welcome to the Clare Hall Thursday Lunchtime Talks, which take place during term time at 1.00pm in the meeting room, behind the porters' lodge in the main college building.

These talks are a platform for sharing research in progress, work experience, and the presentation of published work. They serve as a sounding board for the thoughts and ideas from all members of the College, including spouses and partners. The presentations are about 35-40 minutes long, followed by a coffee break, and ending with 15 minutes of open discussion.

The Clare Hall Dining Hall now offer a 'light lunch' option consisting of soup and a sandwich, so if you would like to bring lunch along to this event, you are more than welcome. Water, napkins, and fruit are provided. You can also use your College coffee card to enjoy a free hot drink.

If you would like to give one of these talks, please email Ems Lord at




Thursday, 30 January 2020 - 1:00pm

Marco Tamborini

Twentieth-Century Science of Form between Evolutionary Biology and Architecture

In 1971, biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin criticised the agenda that had dominated evolutionary thought in England and the United States according to which natural selection is seen as an optimising agent. Conversely, they proposed a different standpoint on evolution, in which body plans are constrained by phyletic heritage, pathways of development and general architecture. As they admitted, while this different focus on evolutionary mechanisms was long popular in continental Europe, it was almost absent in English-language biology. Given this background, how did this European perspective come to form the basis for a major theoretical challenge to Adaptationist thinking? What were the sources of this perspective? In my talk, I point out that this rethinking was possible through an exchange and transfer of practices, data, technologies, and knowledge between biologically oriented students of form and architects. Specifically, I analyse how morphological knowledge travelled from evolutionary biology into architecture and back during the 1960s. As a case study, I focus on the Stuttgart Collaborative Research Center on wide span surface structures. In this research centre, architect Frei Otto and biologist Gerhard Helmcke developed a structural analysis of morphogenesis. According to this analysis, an efficient form is obtained by using as little material as possible in line with the lightweight principle. Hence, by showing how morphological knowledge travelled during the 1960s, my presentation will provide preliminary insights into a different history of 20th and 21st-century science of form.

The talks run for around 40 minutes and are followed by a Q&A.

The Clare Hall Dining Hall now offers a 'light lunch' option consisting of soup and a sandwich. If you would like to bring lunch along to this event, you are more than welcome to. Water, napkins, and fruit are provided. You can also use your College coffee card to enjoy a free hot drink.