Typology and Morphology

14 – “The Discourse on Nature” – Michael Foucault

In “The Discourse on Nature,” Michael Foucault argues that “The theory of natural history cannot be dissociated from that of language” (Pg.157). The relationship between language and natural history is a fundamental arrangement of knowledge and represent them in a system of names. The author describe the priori that: “a priori is what, in a given period, delimits in the totality of experience a field of knowledge, defines the mode of being of the objects that appear in that field, provides man’s everyday perception with theoretical power, and defines the conditions in which he can sustain a discourse about things that is recognized to be true” (Pg.158).

Natural history is contemporaneous with language –“Classification and speech have their place of origin in the same space that representation opens up within itself because it is consecrated to time, to memory, to reflection, to continuity” (Pg.158). Classification is essential to our understanding of the natural history. This guides us to understand how the natural history interacts with language. Between the language and the theory of nature there exists a relation that is of critical type. And the critical question did link to the form of determinate knowledge. The form can exist according to the natural history and its classification of language.

1. Foucault argues that the relation between language and natural history. How did both of them affect the architectural theories?
2. How does the Classification relate to the form of architecture?


13 – “Prologue to On Growth and Form” – D’Arcy Thompson

In this article, Thompson discusses Growth and Form in relation to the research of organisms form.
The form can be explained by physical considerations and to understand that there is no organic forms exist save such as are in conformity with physical and mathematical laws. Thompson introduces force to explore the notion of form. D’Arcy Thompson describes Force that: “Force is the appropriate term for our conception of the causes by which there forms and changes of form are brought about” (Pg.11).  The form of an object is a “diagram of force”. To illustrate this point, Thompson used the amoeba as an example.

After exploring the amoeba as a precedent, I can’t help thinking how flexible and lithe are the space of building. We always talk about the sustainable design and multitask of space. However, the sustainable space and multitask space are depend on how the space can be flexible and lithe. The natural form could give us great precedents to study the static building and dynamic space. Furthermore, the environment should be considered more as the context form of building. The article of Growth and Form is not just a discussion of forces and forms, but also how the natural elements reflect to the architecture in alternative ways. And how would the multi-aspects that maybe environmental, technological, and sociological factors form the new architectural theories.

1. How does the form or force to build the study model for the architectural design?
2. Can we say that the urban pattern more look like the natural form than architecture? 


12 – “Metabolism and Morphology” – Michael Weinstock

I can imagine the clearly structural diagram of some leaves and cells. This article bring me into a microcosmic natural systems that I felt as if I have saw those structural elements in real world before. Explaining the process and methods of energy transformation and transportation, the author tried to connect the features of the natural entities with the architectural form.

There are some interesting points that dawn on me about the relationship of the natural systems and the architectural systems. First, the flow of energy through all living form is often through a food chain or web, and human being stay at the top of this chain or web. From the herbivore and carnivores to microbes and fungi, at each level of food chain, energy is used up only a small percentage of the energy available at one lever and transferred to the next level. However, human beings are at the top of this chain and consume the most of the energy but transferred or returned nothing to the nature. I cannot help thinking whether we are the member of the nature or the colonist of the earth.

Second, “It is generally observed that the rate of energy consumption per unit of body mass declines as the body size increases” (Pg.28). We just are at middle level of body mass in the natural entities. Why do we consume the more energy than other life-forms? In energy utilization, our buildings are less effective than the lower animal’s shell or cave. Are we not smarter than those shellfishes and insects?

Third, the architects are coming to learn from the nature and imitate the natural structure. I wonder what the key points should learn from the nature – the form or the interrelation with the context. I agree with what Weinstock said – “relates pattern and process, form and behavior, with spatial and cultural parameters, has a symbiotic relationship with the natural world” (Pg.33).

We can adsorb all kinds of form or something from the nature. It is the most important that we rightly use those concepts to architecture in same surroundings of local biology survived.
1. What is the most obstruction of learning from the nature, technology or ideology?
2. Do the endotherms have less efficiency of energy utilization than the poikilotherms? What can we learn from both of them?


11 – “On the Typology of Architecture”-Giulio Carlo Argan

Argan challenged the modern critics who deny the availability of architectural typology. The author indicated three main categories of architectural typologies: “a complete configuration of buildings, major structural elements, and decorative elements.” And use the longitudinally planned buildings the flat or domed roofs, and orders o columns as evidences to support those three categories’ effect in architectural typologies.

The author considered that a “type” is chosen by the practice or theory of architecture and it rooted in the existence of a series of buildings which has obvious formal and functional analogy. The “type” formed through a process of abstracting a complex of formal variants to achieve a common root form. This process lay on its historical and aesthetic function.

Architectural “type” are imitated in many individual projects but we cannot deny that the “type” as the start point of the creative process. However, the “type” ineluctably leads to the problem of the relation between artistic creation and historical experience. The international style clones countless and semblable boxes distributing all over the world.

The modern religious and industrial architecture as the important instances indicate that the typology of architecture is continuous and interlaced in the inventive aspect of the creative process.


1. If the typology of architecture helps us build the base of creative working, how we can avoid falling into the past historical repetition?
2. Is the “Type” a recurrent process from reducing to manifolding?

Revised-Diagram Assignment

Revised-Diagram Assignment-Bin Tian

Studio Project 2-Sep 28


Studio Project-1


Modernism and the Primacy of Form

10 – “Form and Figure” –Alan Colquhoun

There is a principal axis about the relationship of form and function faintly seen in the articles. Notwithstanding the word “figure” is the frequently appeared through the whole article, it is a clue of the relationship of form and function.

The Beaux-Arts and the work of Le Corbusier as examples are used to show stylistic element of in contemporary building contradicted with the Modern Movement. “Function has been held to give meaning to form, while form has been held to “express” function.” (Pg.190) This proposition has lasted for more than 150 years. The relationship of those two words has cited between form and figure.

The figure looked like the symbol of classical tradition. It reflects or emblems the conventional types. The types also can be explained as the style of architectural history. The beams, columns, arches, roofs and so on can assemble together to build a certain type as one style link in the culture as the article mentioned -“a figural composition is able to convey a complex set of ideas which is not inherent in the basic structural form from which it is derived and which refers to other ideas within the culture” (Pg.193)

Used the examples of Architecture, Art, Music and Painting, the article clue that is from the form, figure, type to model explained the interior influence between form and function.
1.Does the formalism reflect the Architect’s idealism?
2.Why did the article just mention the “positive beauty”? Is there the “negative beauty”?


9 – “The Biological Analogy” – Peter Collins

This article cites lots of writers and architects, from Lamarck, Herbert and Buffon to Frank Lloyd Wright, to discuss the influence of biological theories to modern architecture. Most of those ideas have deeply affected the architects to think over the form of their projects, and the relationship between biology and architecture.

The unfailing controversy on the relationship of form to function goes through the whole article. “two dilemmas in the interpretation of the facts at once made themselves apparent: does form follow function, or does function follow form?”(Pg.151).The biological analogy provides a new hypothesis to analyze the conception of form and functionalism in morphology. Frank Lloyd Wright’s project is also used to explain the combat of forms and function. His conception, living architecture, treats as the symbol against the pure against formalism.

The author summarizes four relationships -”the relationship of organisms to their environment, the correlation between organs, the relationship of form to function, and the principle of vitality itself” (Pg.153). He uses those relationships to correlate architecture with biological analogies.

Form, biology and functionalism, those three aspects interlace together to open out the process of development in modern architecture. From the evolvement of biology, we can find that the architecture theories always spirally make progress.


Can we use the form of biological organisms to improve the function of our building? Does this mean the function followed the form?
The human body is the most complex organisms for our society. Can we accept this as study object in ethic?


8 – “The Six Determinants of Architectural Form”-Paul Rudolph

This article reargued the unfailing topic- form and function. We may be familiar with the famous opinion-“Form follows function”, which impacted lots of architectural students and architects. I also have worshiped this opinion for a long time.

According to the six determinants, we can know the author denying the concept of pure functionalism. The first one, “Environment”, relates to the surroundings of the project. Paul mentioned the public buildings should serve as focal points in cities. I totally agree with it. Cities are the concentrated place of human activities. The public interest should be more important than the personal and commercial interests and the public building as the important role in city should be respected and focused on. At this moment, the impression of form can strongly affect the people’s feeling than the function.

The third determinant, “Region” is still popular topic in recent period. Paul mentioned- the several conditions tend to limit regional expression. The industrialization enriches our design choice but cuts the throat of the connection between architecture with the tradition and culture. The skills and materials of traditional architecture had lost as that we forgot writing when we use the computer too much.

“When architects depend on their sensibility and imagination architecture has always gone downhill.” (P. 215), I partly agree with this opinion. All of designs based on some principles and disciplines, and none of them can be created by a powerful and unconstrained style. We need to follow a right way to achieve our goal but sensibility and imagination are the important aspects in our professional area.


1. What is the different between the form and fashionable style?
2. How did the form and function exchange the roles in the city planning?

Diagram Assignment

Diagram Assignment-Bin Tian

The Nature of and Natural Form Readings

7 – “The Nature of Gothic,” – J. Ruskin

The highly emotional expression filled in the whole article. The author markedly trend to the Gothic architecture as the perfect style in all of architectural styles. For example, Ruskin mentioned :“For in one point of view Gothic is not only the best, but the only rational architecture, as being that which can fit itself most easily to all services, vulgar or noble” (P168). In the history of architecture, all kinds of theories and styles evolved through long time test. Each of them was rational in that era but was not permanent. Gothic architecture is no exception either.

From the list of six characteristics of Gothic architecture, which are Savageness, Changefulness, Naturalism, Grotesqueness, Rigidity, and Redundance, Ruskin gave the reader a qualitative expression of Gothic architecture. It is not very objective. As the author explained the third character of Gothic mind, – “when both are left free; the Western, or Gothic, delighting most in the representation of facts, and the Eastern (Arabian, Persian and Chinese) in the harmony of colours and forms” (P169), there are thousands of historic sites can prove how the Eastern culture pay attention to the naturalism and the coexistence of human and nature.

The Gothic architecture has an important position in the history of architecture, but it is not the only one on which we need to focus.


Why did the author strongly canonize one style except others?
Is it right for the emotional description of architectural history?
6 – “In-Between: The Natural in Architecture and Culture,” – Elizabeth Grosz

This article sucks me into a whirlpool that is a complex relationship of nature, power, architecture and culture. Just as Grosz, she described that “The space of in-between is that which is not a space, a space without boundaries of its own, which takes on and receives itself…”(p91). The “in-between” is not naturally spatial form, but a dynamic spatial construction. It is a transformation of movement and forces based on opposing variables and fragmentation.

Architecture is as a bridge between the culture and the nature, and it comes from both of the nature and the culture and is molded by more complications – history, power and etc. Tracing the alternative cultural and natural forces (or power), the architecture has been rewritten.

If I abstract those complex and dialectic relationship of those factors from other view differed with the western dominating knowledge, I would use a symbol to explain those relationships – the symbol for Taiji. From the eastern culture, the world is chaos that comes into being Yin and Yang spaces which are parallel and opposite spaces but can transform to each other. The undifferentiated absolute and infinite potentiality in this space of in-between any factors could interact on all of aspects. The force or power constantly transferred from one form to other form, from one space to other space or from the past to the future.

All of them, space, time or power, continually change through energy conversion. The architecture is the result of those variables aggregated and interacted.


Can we use some practical methods to explore those spaces?
Can we use the law of energy conservation to explain the connection between architecture and culture?

Previous Older Entries