Guillermo Sánchez Sotés, Christiane M. Herr, and Thomas Fischer
Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (Sotés) | Southern University of Science and Technology (Herr & Fischer)
We investigate cross-disciplinary appropriations of natural scientific theory in architecture with a focus on the theory of autopoiesis, developed by the Chilean neuro-biologists Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, and Ricardo Uribe in the early 1970s. Since its inception, this theory has been applied to phenomena beyond biology, most notably in sociology by Niklas Luhmann and, based on that, in architecture by Patrick Schumacher. So far, Schumacher’s appropriation of the theory of autopoiesis in architecture has led neither to a broader, structured discourse nor to a coherent critique, begging the question: What are the merits of Patrick Schumacher’s appropriation of the theory of autopoiesis from the perspective of academic architectural research? To address this question, we employ the method of discourse analysis as well as a purpose-developed analytical framework, aiming to show patterns of language use, merits, and respective benefactors of natural-scientific theory appropriation in architecture and design. We are particularly interested in the extent to which reasoning and language use of academic research may inform architectural practice and vice versa, and we hope that our findings are also applicable in other contexts where strangely obvious-yet-vague connections between design and natural-scientific theory are drawn.
KEYWORDS: autopoiesis, appropriation, purpose, discourse, discourse analysis