A4680-1 / Spring 2017

Emergent Epigenesis

Evolving + Epigenesis: Exploring the theory that an organism develops by unstructured differentiation rather than simply enlarging.

Architecture and nature have always had an intrinsic relationship, with architects taking inspiration from nature’s designs. Historically, architects analyze the geometry of organic structures, take cues from the qualities of different materials and embrace the layered relationship between buildings and the environment. To reflect on this relationship, one would ask: if no two trees are alike, then why are so many buildings indistinguishable? This class will focus on nature’s emergent processes of creating unforeseen uniqueness. The results of this exploration will lead to the construction of a permanent pavilion on Governors Island this spring. The success of the project will be how well the structure reflects the natural environment to which it is built: a building in nature that is of nature that is for nature. Exploring the theory of epigenesis we can look at the way that environment factors into evolution: nature vs. nurture. Building on this concept, the project will evolve over time. This year will represent the seed of the design, and then future iterations will evolve, morph and grow the pavilion annually. Nothing will be prescribed or pre-defined; the project will be the physical realization of the organic growth of form.

Students will work in a single group that will function as a team throughout the research, design, fabrication and construction of the pavilion. This will be a substantial structure that will require coordination with numerous outside entities while also being a reflection of each group members unique role. Research will be three fold: focusing on research of natural structures, writing genetic algorithms and developing a structural set of drawings. We will explore concepts new and old, ranging from Semper’s four elements of architecture, to bioclimatic design, to genetic algorithms. The class will be a serious attempt to derive a generative form and then rationalize it to make a permanent piece of architecture that can endure the annual climate of this region.

Location & Time
505 Avery Hall
Tu 5 PM - 7 PM
Session & Points
Full Semester
3 Points
Tech Elective - Fabrication
Call Number
Other Semesters & Sections
Course Semester Title Student Work Instructor Syllabus Requirements & Sequence Location & Time Session & Points Call No.
A4680‑1 Spring 2016
Captions too long 7.jpg
Captions too long 6.jpg
Captions too long 5.jpg
TU 5 PM - 7 PM
3 Points