Material & Space

Material & Space
Synthesis Strategies based on
Evolutionary Developmental Biology

Sean Ahlquist and Moritz Fleischmann
Emergent Technologies and Design Program, Architectural Association
School of Architecture, London, United Kingdom

Material & Space, a paper by Sean Ahlquist and Sean Ahlquist proposes synthesis strategies based on evolutionary developmental biology. A material system can be defined as a set of self-organized materials, defining a certain spatial arrangement. In architecture, this material arrangement acts as a threshold for space, though space often only appears as a by-product of the material organization. Treating space as a resulting, therefore secondary, independent product minimizes the capacity to generate architecture that is astutely aware of concerns of functionality, environment and energy. An effective arrangement of material can only be determined in relation to the spaces that it defines.

When proposing a more critical approach, a material system can be seen as an intimate inter-connection and reciprocal exchange between the material construct and the spatial conditions. It is necessary to re-define material system as a system that coevolves spatial and material configurations through analysis of the resultant whole, in a process of integration and evaluation. With this understanding of material system comes an expansion in the number of criteria that are simultaneously engaged in the evolution of the design. The material characteristics, as well as the spatial components and forces (external and internal), are pressures onto the arrangement of material and space.

This brings a high degree of complexity to the process. Biological systems are built on methods that resolve complex interactions through sets of simple yet extensible rules. Evolutionary Developmental Biology explains how growth is an interconnected process of external forces registering fitness into a fixed catalogue of morphological genetic tools. Translating the specific framework for biological growth into computational processes, allows the pursuit of an architecture that is fully informed by the interaction of space and material.