Monday, March 1, 2010

Biology and Habitation

Does the use of biological systems for design inspiration place greater emphasis on the form of a building rather than its programmatic use?

No, not form. It puts greater emphasis on structure. Things in Nature are “unselfconscious” forms: they are structures first, and since every structure must have a form, organisms have form. Another way to say it: form is merely an attribute of structure. Form cannot exist apart from rigid (or semi-rigid) materiality that holds the form.

Every structure large enough to inhabit creates potentials for and limitations on how humans can act in it. So as soon as a designer gets an idea for a structure, it implies programmatic possibilities. It is not possible to sever design of structure and design of a program of use. They are interactive, mutually dependent aspects of architecture. But just as designers can choose to ignore structure and focus on form-making, they can ignore the programmatic implications of structure and focus on structure-making. Designers can ignore them, but that does not make them disappear. The implications are there, so if examination of the structure of organisms gives rise to ideas for the structure of a building, and if the structure of a building is always connected to patterns of human activity that can unfold in that structure, then inspiration drawn from organisms is both structural and programmatic, if only a designer chooses to look.

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