Self-design and ontogenetic evolution

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Pablo Miranda Carranza: Self-design and ontogenetic evolution. In: Generative Art 2001.



The context and long term goal of the project is to develop design environments in which the computer becomes an active and creative partner in the design process. To try to set-up a system that would enhance the design process by suggesting possibilities, has been preferred to an approach that emphasises optimisation and problem-solving.

The work develops around the general concept of morphogenesis, the process of development of a system's form or structure. Besides the obvious example of embryological growth, biological evolution, learning, and societal development can also be considered as morphogenetic processes.

The aim is to set a foundation from where latter work can develop in the study of how form unravels, and the implications and possibilities of the utilisation of such processes in design. Some basic principles are established, regarding the idea of Ontogenesis, the study of the development of organisms, and Epigenesis, the mode Ontogenesis operates.

Drawing on D’Arcy Thompson’s ideas and inspired on the models and approaches developed in the recent field of Artificial Life, this work explores the possibilities of using a model based in bone accretion to develop structural systems. The mechanisms by which bone is able to adapt are relatively known and simple, and at the same time they address a sensible problem, such as it is the case of the static performance of a structure. This may seem contradictory with what was mentioned above regarding problem solving. The problem is anyway approached not with the intention of finding optimal solutions, but challenging and creative ones. It is not answers the computer should provide, but questions about the problematic of the design. It is in this context of “problem-worrying” (as opposed to problem solving) that the work has been carried.

Only through the mutual interrogation and conversation between designer and computer a fruitful working process can unfold. Remarkably, some of the conclusion from the study of Ontogenetic processes can be extrapolated to the design process as a whole, and concepts such as Chreode or Homeorhesis can be understood as referring to the development of a design work. These concepts are not very different from Gordon Pask’s ideas on the “sprouts”, through which he explained not only design processes, but also conversations and interactions in general [1].

Extended Abstract


Used References

[1] Negroponte, Nicholas. Soft Architecture Machines, MIT Press, 1975.

[2] Thompson, D’arcy Wentworth. On Growth and Form,Cambridge University Press, 1961.

[3] Hofstadter, Douglas R. Gödel, Escher, Bach, Basic Books Inc, 1979.

[4] Piaget, Jean. Le Structuralisme, Presses Universitaires de France 1974.

[5] Gilbert, S. F. A Conceptual History of Modern Embryology ,Plenum Press, NY.

[6] Bonet, Jordi. L’últim Gaudí, Enciclopèdia Catalana, 2000.

[7] Drew, Philip, Frei Otto, Form and Structure, Crosby Lockwood Staples, London, 1976.

[8] Swinton, Jonathan

[9] Kauffman Stuart A. The Nature of Autonomous Agents and the worlds they mutually create, 1996. Available at


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