Genomic Architecture

August 6th, 2006 | Filed under: JAC | 1 Comment »


Genomic architecture is based on the manipulation of the architectural genome. Like its biological counterpart, this genome is universal and encompasses all architecture — past, present and future. At its root, this genome is defined by a unified morphological genome, a universal code for all morphologies — natural, human-made and artificial. Morphogenomics, a possible new science, deals with morphological informatics. It includes mapping the morphological genome as a basis for generative morphologies that underlie the shaping of architectural space and structure. Once mapped, the morphological genome will need to be layered with other genomes (also requiring mapping) to cover different aspects of architecture: physical (e.g. materials, construction technologies), sensorial, cognitive and behavioral. Genomic architecture, based on the layered genome, encompasses an integrated world of “artificial architecture” (used in the same sense as “artificial intelligence” and “artificial life”), a world of complexity evolving in parallel with the natural world. It is a morphologically structured network of information that determines architectural taxonomies and phylogenies, permits digital manipulation of form in the design process, and enables mass-customization in digital manufacturing.

Limits of Organic Architecture

The meaning of the term “organic architecture”, which draws its inspiration mostly from biology, keeps evolving with increasing knowledge of nature combined with foreseeable technologies. As new technologies emerge, architecture becomes more organic in its scope, intent and realization. The upper limit to this sort of bio-mimicry would be biology itself. Buildings would grow , respond, adapt and recycle, they would self-assemble and self-organize, they would remember and be self-aware, they would evolve, and they would reproduce and die. Organic architecture, were it to attain biology, would design itself. It would also perpetuate itself. Architecture would then become “life”, and paradoxically, buildings would no longer need architects. Organic architecture, in this limit case scenario, would also define the end of architecture (as we define it now).

Extrapolating from projected technologies of the future , a scenario like this one is quite possible, even inevitable, but it is flawed for two reasons. First, biology as a goal for organic architecture assumes that such a biology (namely, existing biology) is frozen in time since it is based on “life” as we know it presently. Extrapolation of architecture from present biology ignores past and future biologies. Nature’s ongoing experiment comprises structures that are extinct, structures that exist now, and structures that have yet to appear. The definition of ‘organic’ must thus encompass all biologies: past, present and the future. Second, it ignores the creation of the new, e.g. new materials (new chemistries) not found in nature, new technologies not found in nature and new organisms (based on known or new biologies) not existing in nature. Besides new natural biologies, the term ‘organic’ must thus include artificial biology as well. This is where the line between human designs and those made by nature becomes a continuum.

Unifying Laws

What unites the natural and the human-made (including the artificial) are fundamental laws, the laws of nature. Our knowledge of nature and human-made constructions evolves such that these laws become increasingly more encompassing, tending towards the natural upper limit of a single unifying law for everything (as in the current search in physics, for example). Whether this limit is attainable is an open question. The natural and the artificial are facets of organic architecture that are joined at this fundamental level. This is true of biology and buildings. The morphologic possibilities within these two worlds fall within a single morphological universe governed by unifying laws of form that are common to both. It is governed by the mathematics of space, structure and form. When physical constraints (size, material, movement, weight, stability, building method or forming process, etc.) are imposed on form, this universe shrinks through the elimination of mathematical structures that are physically unrealizable. The physics and chemistry of form delimits the morphological universe.

by Haresh Lalvani

One Comment on “Genomic Architecture”

  1. 1 steve said at 8:56 pm on December 3rd, 2007:

    where are those diagrams from?

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