Tom Wiscombe / Emergent: Manifesto #34

Nature is filled with variation and complexity that architecture has yet to fully explore. Biology is not architecture, of course. Nature doesn’t care about form following function or function following form, it is all about iteration, mutation, and feedback through fitness testing, all of which produces species and formations that are as elegant as they are robust.

The hammerhead shark did not emerge slowly, step-by-step, from small to large hammer as is commonly thought. In fact, the first hammerhead to appear was the Winghead shark, with a very wide hammer. This mutation offered no discernable advantage – it was, at that point, “ornamental”. Through the process of optimisation (aka natural selection), other species have appeared with a range of hammer sizes better adapted to hunting in various environments. In the end, the hammer cannot be understood as an essentially functional development, although it has developed various unexpected functional benefits at the back end through optimisation.

Beyond the trappings of literal biomorphism, my office is interested in biomimetics as a way towards both formal variability and performance. Dragonfly wings, bat wings, radiolaria, corals and jaguar patterns are all on the table as potentially relevant to new ways of thinking about structural formations in particular.

Originally published in ICON magazine
Issue 404 | 2007

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