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.