Spaces of Species

From Animal Functions to HUman Forms


In the wake of Vitruvius, architects for centuries held buildings to have animal origins: that is, that humans built their huts like birds their nests or mammals their dens, so the den, the nest, and the hut were but three manifestations of the same natural order. Beyond this belief – which is now concealed as ideology in what is called ‘biomimicry’ – the moderns found in ‘houses for animals’ an opportunity to apply the functionalist theses to unexpected contexts, in the process posing a pertinent question: if form follows function, how should forms derived from animal functions be? The answers varied, and in truth, not all of them are coherent with functionalism: from the elegantly rationalist penguin pool by Berthold Lubetkin to the deconstructivist, avant la lettre aviary by Cedric Price, passing through the organicist, expressionist, and brutalist ecosystems that Javier Carvajal designed for the Madrid Zoo. What these examples show is not so much that the uses and the practices of each and every animal species call for specific forms, but that architects take inspiration from those uses and practices in proposing architectures they are obsessed with. Something similar happens with the ten works that have been selected for feature in the following pages; all of them speak as much of animal functionalism as they do of human arbitrariness...

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