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.

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.


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.