August 2003: "Evolution as Paradigm in Architecture and Urbanism"

Author: Norman Crowe

The author contrasts the 'modernist theory' of urban architecture with the more traditional design theories prevalent prior to the 1940s. Modernist design is based on the concept of continual re-invention and clear breaking with tradition. Examples include sterile "social housing" and the growth of suburbs, each isolated from their context and based on the theoretical precepts at the time. In comparison, traditional design focuses on 'translation' and 'transformation' - taking into account existing customs, wisdom and design. This approach is similar to biological evolution. Traditional designs are frequently based on natural analogies or have natural symbolic significance. Traditional architecture is regaining a foothold in the U.S. and Europe, partly due to a recognition of the environmental destruction associated with modern design. There is a danger that design becomes driven by nostalgia and romanticism - again, evolutionary theory can provide discipline and the necessary critical evaluation. The article includes an extensive annotated bibliography.

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