Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Bjarke Ingels made his way to the TED talk stage. I am not going to comment on his Danish accent nor the cynical comments on China. What I would like to do is to pick up his idea of evolution and expend that a bit more.
Bjarke said, “rather than revolution, we are much more interested in evolution, the idea that things gradually evolve by adapting and improvising to the changes of the world... “ He used Darwin's evolutionary tree to describe how they work. "A project evolves through a series of generations of design meetings. In each meeting there are way too many ideas, only the best ones can survive." If the process of architectural design is really analogous to evolution, there are several questions need to be asked.
1. Who makes the selection?
In Darwin's theory, the key mechanism of evolution is natural selection. Mother nature has the power of picking fit species. Who has the power of picking options at design meetings? Our mighty boss - BI in the case of BIG, I bet. This is the inevitable ugly truth, the underlying relationship of employment. Any democratic process still needs a "chief commander" who has the veto power. Some may say, the bosses could base their selections on certain objective criteria. But architecture is not math. You can’t even define a functional kitchen with pure rational reasoning. Judgment is never an equation built with just objective standards. “Survival of the fittest” is hence a myth that varies from office to office. Program, aesthetics, economy, ecology… At the end, evolution in architecture is artificial selection.
2. How are mutants produce?
Mutation is accepted by biologists as the mechanism by which natural selection acts - "favorable" mutations may accumulate and result in adaptive evolutionary changes. There may be harmful mutations, but the encouragement of mutation in general at least increases the chance of beneficial ones. If we see everything unfamiliar as a freak, we can’t possibly make any progress. Mutation occurs in response to the external changes. For architects, a good and adaptive knowledge of the changing world in general enhances the fitness of their creative solutions. You have to be sensitive enough to react, right?
3. What nurtures biodiversity?
Biodiversity is often a measurement of the health of an ecosystem. The variation of species ultimately comes down to the variation of habitats. In an architectural office, only the atmosphere of open-mindedness can encourage diverse free thoughts. What could be the aggressive exotic species that destroys the balance here? I’ll leave that open for imagination…