Title The Evolution of Designs: Biological Analogy in Architecture and the Applied Arts
Year 2008 & 1979
Publisher Routledge & Cambridge University Press
PricePaperback £39.99 Hardback £135.00 eBook £20.00
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The Evolution of Designs: Biological Analogy in Architecture and the Applied Arts

This book tells the history of the many analogies that have been made between the evolution of organisms and the human production of artefacts, especially buildings. It examines the effects of these analogies on architectural and design theory and considers how recent biological thinking has relevance for design. Architects and designers have looked to biology for inspiration since the early 19th century. They have sought not just to imitate the forms of plants and animals, but to find methods in design analogous to the processes of growth and evolution in nature. Biological ideas are prominent in the writings of many modern architects, of whom Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright are just the most famous. Le Corbusier declared biology to be ‘the great new word in architecture and planning’. Since the first edition of the book was published in 1979, there has been a resurgence of interest in biological analogy in architecture. The revised edition adds an extended Afterword covering recent developments including the introduction of computer methods in design in the 1980s and 90s, which have made possible a new kind of ‘biomorphic’ architecture through ‘genetic algorithms’ and other programming techniques


‘A superb historical account [that] provides the background to evolutionary conceptions of the built environment and human culture… [Steadman] clearly brings an enormous richness of understanding to his discussions as well as an acute critical skill. He also has the rare ability of giving quite dense material a sense of lightness and narrative drive.’

Karl Kropf, Urban Morphology

’[The Evolution of Designs] is a dense, well-argued and highly impressive work, full of acute observations and judgements, and of lasting value… If only it could be read by the designers, manufacturers, and campaigners who all claim to be innovators in environmental awareness, it could save many people from wandering noisily down blind alleys, or along well-trodden paths they think are unexplored.’

William Fawcett, Building Research and Information

‘…the most coherent British contribution to architectural theory since Lethaby.’

Andrew Saint, Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain Newsletter