Adaptive Design in Biology and Architecture

Scientific insights verify what can be observed: organisms change to adapt to their environments and concurrently bring about changes in their environments to suit them. This organism – environment relation may initially be seen to be trivial. Yet it is inherently complex, as it makes adaptive design both an agent of natural selection and development acting as a driver of biological change, as well as an agent for ecosystem engineering or niche construction, thus driving environmental change. Architecture has become a conspicuous part of this evolutionary feedback and ecological interaction with significant influence on global environment. First, this suggests a biological – ecological parallel for adaptive design in architecture and to consider, with caution, the current and shifting state of our design intelligence adopted to guide this process. Secondly, it is necessary to distinguish their divergence when considering that it is human signature that is a major determinant in these processes today, hence the anthropocene. These realizations prepare the grounds for and draw attention to a biomimetic framework that has the potential to empower architectural design by learning from biological innovation, its generation in organisms and through their ecosystem engineering / niche constructing activities. This apparent commonality in adaptive design remains relatively unexplored; yet, it is critical for recognizing the potential capacity of architectural design for environmental innovation and building this capability for the fundamental shift from a design path associated with environmental deterioration, as well as its inclusion in the discussions about sustainable, ecological approaches to architecture.

18 May Tuesday, 15.40


Defne Sunguroğlu Hensel [AA Dipl RIBA II MSc] is an architect, interior architect, board member and principle researcher in the OCEAN Design Research Association, and doctoral research fellow at AHO Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Currently, she is completing her PhD entitled: ‘Biologically Driven Convergence for Architectural Innovation and a Developmental Route to Local Specificity’. In the field of research by design in architecture, her interdisciplinary work extends into fields including systems & complexity; engineering; biology; biomimetics; TRIZ; material science; micro-climatology; computational design and ontologies; CAD/CAM; environmental and ecological sustainability and receives industrial sponsorships and supports. Her current research projects include Nested Catenaries; Complex Brick Assemblies; ArchiTRIZ – Material-Ontology [MatOnt]; and 30 Case Studies on the performance analysis of historical buildings. Previously, she received the Holloway Trust Award (2006) for a significant contribution to the construction industry; Buro Happold studentship (2006) to pursue her research into Complex Brick Assemblies; a stipend by BDA Brick Development Association (2007), the Anthony Pott Memorial Award (2007) for detailed analysis and research of Eladio Dieste’s work; the PMI Award (2007) in the industrial category of the Pottery Mechanics Institute; and the IASS Tsuboi Award (2013) in the category of the most meritorious paper published in the journal of the IASS International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures in 2013. She held Innovation Fellowships, published, lectured, taught, exhibited, organized symposiums, exhibitions, conducted workshops internationally and her work has been published widely.

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Second Session continues (Defne Sunguroglu Hensel)

Defne Sunguroglu is the last presenter today with a talk titled “Adaptive Design in Biology and Architecture.”

She is echoing some of Michael Hensel’s closing comments about need for collaboration between fields and disciplines, especially when data goals are similar.

So, here we are in the anthropocene…. ecological markers have shown that human intervention has caused widespread and irreversible changes in the climate.

“Adaptive design” is the evolutionary principle that helps us to understand these movements through geological time periods.

Why not try to define architecture in these terms? What about material systems that adapt to environment.

The typical adaptation in design configuration:

MATERIAL is adapted to DESIGN is adapted to ENVIRONMENT


ENVIRONMENT is adapted to DESIGN is adapted to MATERIAL

“similarity between two species tells us to look for ENVIRONMENTAL conditions.” — Waddington’s epigenetic model shows us the only possible routes for a phenotype to “travel.”

For example, when looking at sea snail shells, you will see adaptation in form and thickness that models the presence of crawfish predators.

An attempt to realise this logic / thinking process is the “nested catenaries” project.

In the same way of thinking, the work of Eliado Dieste displays environmental logic and preconditions for the material brick.

Likewise, environmental analysis of an ottomak kiosk showed that not only did the second canopy create shade, but it created turbulence that allowed the air movement to cool users.

It seems that the understanding of this relation between the physical, environmental (recalling, again, Michael Hensel’s ‘feedback loop’ characterization of architecture) and performance led to experiments with the catenary form in brick–built in full-scale at Ritoque, Chile, with students. These nested catenary forms have withstood several earthquakes without cracking.

“Above all, what I want to stress is that the information we are working with is growing…. we are beginning to build a model of convergence thinking and material ontology.”

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1st Session is underway (Toni Kotnik)

Dr. Sema Alacam opened the first session with her remarks on the contributions of Dr. Biloria and Dr. Kotnik to the understanding of the relationship between technology and thinking about structure and form, as well as the direct influence they have had on her own work.

First up is Dr. Kotnik. He discussed the introduction of the analytical “tool” of mathematics that has introduced itself into design thinking and practice. It takes the form of scripting, analysis, formal and geometric description, etc. and he claims introduced an “engineering approach” into architectural practice applied into “form finding” and leading to a “typological fixation.”

Asking “what is mathematics?” Dr. Kotnik says that HUMANS make order, and he give us this quote from Heidegger:

“this genuine learning is an extremely peculiar taking, a taking where on who takes only takes what one basically already has…. The mathemata, the mathematical is that “about” things which we already know. Therefore we do not first get it out of things, but, in a certain way, we bring it with us.”

This leads him to conclude that there is a perceptual dimension to the description of things through mathematics, and to his interest in thinking about how to merge these two areas of mathematical relations and the question of perception.

We can start to look at the “parametric variation” computational tools have given us from an architectural point of view, with the help of the perceptual understanding of architectural phenomena such as “openness” “flow” “connectedness” etc.

These ideas were explored with students, beginning with the analysis of compositions that have different character such as “contained” vs. “un-contained” space, and using geometry and geometric rules to read spatial conditions FROM the form.

Students end up generating structure and material systems that seem to develop from “just a couple of lines.”

“Architects and engineers both claim to be designers, though now they define design and the approaches they use to realize it vary widely.”

precision -> principle
typology ->
computability ->
correct -> right

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Challange Statement of the Panel


There lies great paradox in a world of fast forward change there is no survival without knowledge and yet knowledge yields to uselessness so fast that education, learning, teaching become obscured. If knowledge transfer means tutors teach what they learned as a student or what they learned by research or even perhaps what they learned yesterday, then, more so, how to research and learn together?
More and more students lead workshops and tutorials on software and technologies such as drones and numerically controlled systems. There is much to experience, to try out, to play and to experiment within the horizon of minute techno species, generative software, automated building and shape finding. However it is seems more crucial that the why and why not, the cultur-real-meta knowledge of the new technologies and the impacts thereof become the essence of any seating, any discussion, any seminar in the university.
The conference would like to host voices for learned experiments as well as keen criticism of technology of making, and notes on strategies of adaption for architecture.
Students teaching students as in the Ecole des Beaux Arts, atelier and making-based learning as in the Bauhaus, learning from practice with invited tutors as in the tradition of the AA, we are witnessing architectural education as a “practice” that reinvents itself, its tools and methods.

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Design of Structures

In antiquity, the human ability to detect regularities and to extract patterns was called ta mathemata, which means what can be learned where learning, mathesis, is about the recognition of the unchanged, the stable. For Martin Heidegger “this genuine learning is an extremely peculiar taking, a taking where one who takes only takes what one basically already has. … The mathemata, the mathematical, is that ‘about’ things which we already know. Therefore we do not first get it out of things, but, in a certain way, we bring it with us”. Such an understanding of mathematics opens up a human-centered perspective onto the digital that is not so much driven by technological advance but rather by an attitude towards space making supported by formal design methods. The lecture will discuss in more detail such a design thinking based on the notion of structuring that explores spatial, perceptive, and structural potentials in order to achieve more comprehensive architectural solutions.

18 May Tuesday, 13.30

Toni Kotnik

Toni Kotnik, M.Arch Dipl.Math. MAS ETH Arch/CAAD, studied architecture and mathematics in Germany, Switzerland and the USA. He was senior scientist at the ETH Zurich, assistant professor at the Institute of Experimental Architecture at the University of Innsbruck, studio master at the Emergent Technologies and Design program at the Architectural Association in London, and associate professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Currently, he is Professor for Design of Structures at the Aalto University in Helsinki and principal of d’HKL, a Zurich-based office focusing on experimental and research-oriented architectural design. He has been lecturing worldwide including Harvard University, Princeton University, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and MoMA New York. His practice and research work has been published and exhibited internationally and is centered on the integration of knowledge from science and engineering into architectural thinking and the design process.

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Since the early nineties, virtual reconstructions are part of the architectural education in the department Information and Communication Technologies in Architecture at the Technische Universität Darmstadt (Germany). In an interdisciplinary cooperation with the department of art history numerous projects were carried out. A lot of them were shown in exhibitions in Germany. The possibility that their work would be part of a professional exhibition was a great motivation for the students.

In the speech Marc Grellert will show a selection of the work in Darmstadt and talk about the potentials, the procedures and the different forms of presentation of virtual reconstructions. A focus will be the transformation of virtual models into physical models through rapid prototyping.

29 April Wednesday, 11:30
İzmir University of Economics, Faculty of Fine Arts and Design


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Dr. Marc Grellert teaches in the Department Digital Design[1] and is co-founder of the company Architectura Virtualis[2]. The focus of his research and work are virtual reconstructions, remembrance and conveying of knowledge with the help of digital media as well as development and realization of installations and exhibits for museums.
At Darmstadt University Marc Grellert has led numerous national and international research projects in the context of Virtual Reconstruction e.g. the Vatican Palace in Rome, the Moscow Kremlin, Emperor Tombs in Xi’an“(China, Terracotta Warriors), Temples of the Khmer in Cambodia, Ephesus (Turkey), Cristal Palace in London or 2013 the History of the Cathedral in Florence. The results were shown in large exhibitions.



Trans_Arch_Edu wrap-up session

After a wonderful day of debate on current topics surrounding the shifting nature of architectural education, Panel participants again took the podium to interrogate the issues presented throughout the day. 

Gülce Özmen, a member of the CUT|PAPER architectural community, presented the results of an informal survey conducted to collect student feedback on the system of architectural education.


Tuğyan Aytaç Dural led the the session, opening with the question: do we analyze the material enough? Do we really know the skills of the students well enough to define a better design education?


Everyone shared their ideas, criticisms and suggestions and the discussion raised issues of “monolithic” thinking,  the applicability of architectural education, as well as needs for selective admissions standards, and how to identify new knowledge areas for architectural students.

Thanks to the Izmir University of Economics Graduate School of Natural and Applied Sciences for their support and sponsorship of this event.  Thanks also to our guests for the generous gift of their time and ideas, and to everyone for the openness of the debate. Izmir University of Economics Department of Architecture hopes to be an active voice in the debate on and an advocate for improving excellence in architectural education.

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Panel on the Transformation of Architectural Education

In the 10th year anniversary of the Department of Architecture at the Izmir University of Economics, this panel aims to provide a shared platform for exploring approaches to address new directions in architectural education. The participants are asked to focus on the acute issues at the intersection of two thematic sessions, one being concerned with emerging computational design approaches, and the other with interdisciplinary frameworks in architectural education. The panel is dedicated to fostering a constructive dialogue between leading academics and practitioners concerned with ideas that will take architectural education forward.

Theme 1: The Role of Computational Design in Architecture

Advances in digital computing not only challenge traditional ways of conceptualizing buildings but also impact on the nature of the relationship between design, construction, and habitation. The theme however requires further elaboration and the participants are asked to consider the role of computational design within a framework that links emerging practices in the profession with the relevant strategies adopted in architectural education. The guiding questions that are posed within this session are;

  1. How do advances in digital computation shape the approaches to architectural education?
  2. How does the academic community react to the developments in design computing?
  3. What are the concerns about computational design within both practice based and academic communities?

Theme 2: Interdisciplinary Strategies in Architectural Education

Social, political, economical and environmental demands challenge the architect to rethink traditional strategies of organising and producing architecture. Therefore architectural education needs to address new teaching methodologies which broaden the understanding of, and prepare the architect for interdisciplinary design processes.

  1. What are the goals and potentials of interdisciplinary strategies?
  2. How are interdisciplinary strategies organised?
  3. How do innovative interdisciplinary strategies lead to better architectural environments?

This panel aims at discussing values, goals and organisations of current interdisciplinary strategies, both in architectural education and professional design processes.

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Dr. Ahu Sökmenoğlu on Urban Analytics

  Next up is Dr. Ahu Sökmenoğlu, also from Istanbul Technical University.


Dr. Sökmenoğlu is outlining the role of data mining in current trends in urban analysis. This data comes from GIS databases, but also from live data collecting such as traffic signal operations. The collection and analysis of this data shows potentials for improving life in cities.

Her own PhD research focused on the Beyoğlu Preservation area in Istanbul in creating an analytical model for understanding building characteristics and their influences in terms of ground-floor use patterns, site occupation, size, etc. Such models can support better urban decision making. Evolutionary algorithms test the “fitness” of solutions to the surrounding area.

The streets ore project at MIT uses image mining techniques to assess people’s perceptions of street safety and map that data onto neighborhoods.


The crucial issue for design is the “post-processing” of the mined database. How can architects draw conclusions from data sets and set directions for cities and peacemaking? Dr. Sökmenoğlu believes a new generation at data mining expert/architects is required.

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1st session continues (Dr. Nimish Biloria)

Dr. Biloria is going to introduce us to a recent strand of investigation called “info-Matter” that he has been exploring at the Hyperbody research group at TUDelft.

This will cover basically two topics:

1. data driven, performance-based architecture

2. interactive architecture

“interactive computing establishes bi-directional communication between people, activity, context and technology.” some of the implications of this communication include structures that “respond” to the position and movement of the body, robots that interact socially, etc.


Data driven, performance-based architecture takes information available in the environment and informs the architectural solution. For example, tracking and recording data about solar exposure, humidity, and other environmental factors, openings in a building envelope can be “tuned” to the intention of the designers to provide particular conditions of light.

Another example records movements of vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles to create a circulation strategy that accommodates speed and intensity of the flow of these agents.

Yet another example simulates air movement in order to optimize the channeling of air towards electrical power generating turbines and distributing lower-velocity air to users of the space.

check the journal “Next Generation Building” co-edited by Dr. Biloria here.


Welcome, everyone. After some brief remarks recognizing the esteemed guests and celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Architecture at IEU by our dean, Prof. Dr. Ender Yazgan Bulgun, Department Head, Asst. Prof. Dr. Bahar Durmaz Drinkwater outlined the general aims of the symposium series and the departmental aims.

Of course, there are many thanks to be given and shared.

Guzden Hoca is giving the brief history of the Trans_Arch_Edu series, which began in 2015 with a group of experienced educators as well as innovators in education.

Each panel has been associated with a workshop.

Guzden Hoca is now quoting from the challenge statement issued by Nilufer Kozikoglu:

“Students teaching students as in the Ecole des Beaux Arts, atelier and making-based learning as in the Bauhaus, learning from practice with invited tutors as in the tradition of the AA, we are witnessing architectural education as a “practice” that reinvents itself, its tools and methods.”

TAE_03…. almost ready!

We are about to get underway at the third installment of our “Transformations in Architectural Education” Colloquium series. We are so happy to welcome Toni Kotnik, Nimish Biloria, Defne Suguroglu, and Michael Hensel for the event. Nilufer Kozikoglu and Sema Alacam are also with us for the event.

The first session will comprise Mr. Biloria and Mr. Kotnik in a panel moderated by Sema Alacam, beginning at 13:30.

The second session with Mr. Hensel and Ms. Sunguroglu is set to begin at 15:00


Panel on the Transformation of Architectural Education 3

13.00 – 13.30 Opening remarks
Prof. Dr. Ender Yazgan Bulgun, Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts and Design
Asst. Prof. Dr. Bahar Durmaz Drinkwater, Head, Department of Architecture
Asst. Prof. Dr. Güzden Varinlioğlu, Department of Architecture

13.30 – 15.00 Panel 1 | Moderator: Asst. Prof. Dr. Sema Alaçam, ITU
13.30 – 14.10     Design Structures
Toni Kotnik, Aalto University
14.10 – 14.50    Info-Matter
Nimish M. Biloria, TU Delft

14.50 – 15.00 Coffee Break

15.00 – 17.00 Panel 2 | Moderator: Lec. Michael E. Young, Izmir University of Economics
15.00 – 15.40     Integrative Data-driven Design en route to Performance-oriented Architecture
Michael U. Hensel, AHO-Oslo School of Architecture and Design
15.40 – 16.20    Adaptive Design in Biology and Architecture
Defne Sunguroğlu-Hensel, AHO-Oslo School of Architecture and Design

16.20 – 17.00 Coffee Break

17.00-18.30 Round Table Discussions
Moderator:  Lec. Nilüfer Kozikoğlu, Izmir University of Economics

18.30-19.30 Cocktail


The Trans_Arch_Edu_03 lecture of Dr. Biloria shall elaborate upon “Info-Matter”, a research umbrella, which, interrogates the intricate relationship between information flow and associative material formations at variable scales in the architectural domain via the application of advanced computational and new media tools and techniques. Info-Matter is deeply rooted in exploring novel interdisciplinary design strategies and nonlinear processes for developing generative meta-design systems to conceive Performance driven Non-Standard and Real-Time Interactive architectural formations. The presentation shall elaborate upon the following research and education strands  under the Info-Matter agenda:

– Interactive Architecture

– Interactive Architecture and Cognitive Sciences

– Performance Driven Design

– Smart Cities

 18 May Tuesday, 14.20

biloria imageDr. Nimish Biloria is an Assistant Professor at the, Architectural Engineering and Technology Department (Chair: Hyperbody) at the Delft University or Technology (TU Delft), The Netherlands. He firmly believes in digitally driven bottom-up methodologies for developing performance driven sustainable and energy efficient design solutions. His research and education interests in data driven Performative Design and Interactive Architecture are clubbed under the research umbrella ‘Info-Matter’. He holds a PhD from the Delft University of Technology in the domain of Interactive Environments and a Masters in Architecture in Emergent Technologies and Design from the Architectural Association, London, UK. He has lectured at several prestigious institutes globally and has presented and published his research and design deductions in numerous international journals, design conferences, academic books and design + technology magazines.

Integrative Data-driven Design en route to Performance-oriented Architecture

This talk will present and discuss the work of the RCAT | ACDL Group at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, which focuses on integrative data-driven design with the primary goal to develop a methodological framework for Performance-oriented Architecture. This foregrounds the fact that the development of a particular approach to architecture is the primary focus for the development of integrative methods, processes and tools, instead of pursuing a generic development of apps and algorithms as seems increasingly commonplace today.

18 May Tuesday, 15.00

MichaelHenselProf. Dr. Michael U. Hensel is an architect, writer, researcher and educator. In his professional and academic work he pursues research and research-by-design along a strong interdisciplinary trajectory. He is tenured professor at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design where he directs the Research Centre for Architecture and Tectonics ( He is also founding and acting chairman of the OCEAN Design Research Association ( He has authored and edited numerous books and journals and has published work worldwide.




TRANSARCHEDU03_1104Organization Team
Asst. Prof. Dr. Güzden Varınlıoğlu (Asst. Prof. Dr., Izmir University of Economics)
Michael Young (Lec., Izmir University of Economics)
Nilüfer Kozikoğlu (Lec., Izmir University of Economics)
Sema Alaçam (Asst. Prof. Dr., Istanbul Technical University)
Ece Küreli, Coordinator (Res. Asst., Izmir University of Economics)