Use and Adaptation of Precedents in Architectural Design

Toward an Evolutionary Design Model


Moraes Zarzar, K.

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Delft University Press



For centuries, architects have re-used design precedents in the conception of new design solutions. Whether explicitly – as in the case of Le Corbusier, James Stirling and Jo Coenen – or implicitly – as with J.J.P. Oud, Aldo van Eyk, and Santiago Calatrava – this practice has led to very advantageous efficient, effective, and innovative results. The goal of this research project is to contribute to the construction of computational tools to facilitate this practice by developing a model that grasps significant characteristics of the design process as it employs precedents. The model is built drawing an analogy from the natural evolution. The intention is not to represent the processes that take place in the architects’ minds but rather their behavior as this is manifested in their design products.
The project draws from the multidisciplinary methodology of design tool development of the Design Knowledge Systems Research Center. It employs an analogy with Darwinian evolutionary theory in combination with recent theories of genetics and embryology. The criteria of usefulness in picturing the phenomenon in architecture determines the focus on particular aspects of the analogy. The research also uses three case studies from the architectural domain: J.J.P. Oud, to identify adequacy criteria for the model; Le Corbusier, to illustrate the components and conduct of the model under development; and Santiago Calatrava, to test the model. The research develops a pre-computational qualitative model that provides insights into the process of re-use and adequacy criteria for an analytical model to succeed in architectural practice.