mutation v. individuation

‘Mutation, at its base level, is an evolution technique for the production of potentially useful anomalies. It exists when an offspring has a genetic trait produced by a new DNA sequencing that does not exist in the parent. Unfortunately, ‘mutation’ is also one of the most debased terms within the glossary of contemporary architecture, being mistakenly used as a synonym for individuation. A clarification of the term reveals that mutation enables future differences between species, while individuation identifies individuals within a subspecies or group. Different markings on the wings of butterflies provide a means for individuation, a mutation of those wings, which unlike a mere individuation can lead to the production of an entirely new species of butterfly. Differentiated components, coupled with isolated and extreme mutations resulting in new figures, produce the aesthetic effect of elegance.

Architectural mutation, in the absence of true evolutionary influences and detached from its misuse as individuation and differentiation, requires an anticipatory intervention on the part of the designer to produce a desirable anomaly distinct enough to be legible as a mutation and not merely read as individuation. In this light, animation software easily enables changes in degree within successive components, or individuation, within a family. Elegance requires extreme differentiation or, rather, a change in degree that verges on, or commits to, a change in type – a mutation. Continuously differentiated components are legible as variations of a primitive form, but do not produce the emergence of new figures and traits and cannot therefore produce architectural elegance. That is to say, their similarities overcome their differences. The assembly of different types of components results only in collage – or a circumvention of sameness through excessive difference. Contemporary elegance requires the expert calibration of these two extremes to produce figural mutations that become legible as sensuous effects. The perfection of the hermetically sealed topological system then allows these mutations to be registered as a new species of emergent figure, not component and not whole, but existing as an ephemeral fugitive in between the two extremes.’

Mark Gage | deus ex machina

Categories: Biomimetics, Research


studying: architecture design


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