Learning from the biology of evolution: Exaptation as a design strategy for future cities

  • YEAR
    Melis, Alessandro
    Lara-Hernandez, J. Antonio
    Foerster, Barbora
    2020 Conference Papers
    Conference Papers
    Practice Based & Interdisciplinary Design & Research


This paper highlights the importance of transdisciplinary studies in times of crisis. In the first part, the study shows the benefits of the introduction of literature on biology to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of architecture. The focus of the research concerns architectural exaptation. In biology, exaptation is a functional shift of a structure that already had a prior but different function. We will also learn that, in biology, all creative systems are redundant and involve variability and diversity. The second part of the paper demonstrates how architectural exaptation, intended as an indeterministic and radical mode of design, can contribute to overcome the current global crisis, because structural redundancy is frequently functional, mostly in ever-changing and unstable environments. For instance, the failure of a planned function of a city can be an opportunity to re-use a structure designed for an obsolete function, to respond to unexpected constraints. As a conclusion, through the comparison between biology and architecture, we will, therefore, try to build an architectural taxonomy that demonstrates how indeterminism is not a subcategory of design. Instead, design paradigms in which redundancy and variable diversity of structures reflect functionalism, constitute an equivalent and essential complement with respect to design determinism.

Keywords: Architecture, Design, Biology, Exaptation


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