UCL Energy Institute


Architectural morphospace: mapping worlds of possible built forms


1 January 2010

A method is proposed for plotting the plans of a large variety of rectangular built forms across a two-dimensional ‘morphospace’ of possibilities. The plans are enumerated by means of a technique of binary coding, such that similar shapes are grouped within distinct areas of this morphospace. Some applications to a geometrical history of building types are sketched, with examples from 19th century pavilion hospitals, English elementary schools, and early New York skyscrapers. The purpose is to provide a classification of built forms, to understand their interrelationships in a systematic way, and to see how building types have followed characteristic ‘morphological trajectories’ through this space of forms. It is a tool with which to approach the history of architecture from a geometrical point of view. It is not primarily conceived as an aid to design: nevertheless the paper concludes with some brief speculations about possible implications for design methods, using genetic algorithms.

Architectural morphospace: mapping worlds of possible built forms. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 37 197 - 220. 

Steadman, P; Mitchell, L; (2010) 

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