Intelligent design: On the origin of the architectural species

September 29, 2014
Publication: Architecture Boston v 18 n 3 p 40-43
Author(s): Matthew Bronski

Abstract: The oft-invoked analogy of the modern building to the human body (structural frame to skeleton, building enclosure to skin, mechanical systems to respiratory systems) is as apt as it is clichéd. Yet it falls short in that the body rather vaguely described—skeleton, skin, respiratory system—isn't specifically human, nor even specifically mammalian. The typical analogy stops short because it doesn't begin to account for the vast differences in the bodies and forms of various species of animal—or building.|In his revolutionary treatise of 1859, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin explained his powerful theory of the evolution of animal species. By Darwin's elegant algorithm, A) if individuals within a group are subject to variation, and B) if the environment results in a struggle for survival, and C) if individual characteristics are passed from one generation to the next, then D) over many generations, a species will evolve by a process of natural selection, that is, "survival of the fittest."|Buildings, too, evolve to meet environmental conditions, with certain architectural forms, details, and materials more suited to a given climate, site, or use. And, like the animal species Darwin studied, architectural forms must either adapt to their conditions—or perish.