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Architectural morphospace: mapping worlds of built forms


  • Philip Steadman
  • Linda J Mitchell


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 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.

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  • Philip Steadman & Linda J Mitchell, 2010. "Architectural morphospace: mapping worlds of built forms," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 37(2), pages 197-220, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirb:v:37:y:2010:i:2:p:197-220

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Karst T Geurs & Bert van Wee & Piet Rietveld, 2006. "Accessibility appraisal of integrated land-use – transport strategies: methodology and case study for the Netherlands Randstad area," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 33(5), pages 639-660, September.
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