By Philip Steadman
The Evolution of Designs tells the background of the numerous analogies which have been made among the evolution of organisms and the human construction of artefacts, specifically constructions. It examines the consequences of those analogies on architectural and layout concept and considers how contemporary organic pondering has relevance for layout.
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Additional info for The Evolution of Designs
For the purposes of analysing the analogy with contemporary architectural classification – the description and enumeration of types or ‘species’ of building – we should notice a number of general points. First, the methods of classification used in eighteenth-century natural history turned on visible and formal properties of plant or animal species; and although organs corresponding to certain biological functions might be singled out to provide the basis of a system, the principle of classification was nevertheless not at bottom a functional one.
Cuvier takes from Aristotle a teleological, functional attitude to the description and explanation of anatomical form. He believes, like Aristotle, in the ‘unalterable functional integrity’ of the organism; that the various organs and parts all play necessary and complementary roles in supporting the animal’s actions and way of life. Anatomy, that is the description of the ‘structure of organic bodies’ or parts, is thus meaningless without some functional explanation of the purpose and working of those parts.
6 By comparison the idea of archetypes recognises a certain coherence in organic form, by means of a structure which is transformed, but never beyond a certain limit of distortion. The theory of archetypes was elaborated principally by the late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century German school of transcendental zoology, or Naturphilosophie. This group, of which the best-known figure is Goethe – botanist as well as poet and man of letters – and which also included Meckel and Oken, had been impressed more by the underlying structural similarities between species than by their differences.