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Abstract _ Verena Brehm

Complex morphologies in contemporary architecture
morphogenesis | physiognomy | aesthetics

Complex configurations are more and more common in contemporary architecture – not least due to the possibilities of digital design and production processes. However neither the ‘Gestalt’ (morphology) nor the design processes (morphogenesis) of complex morphologies are precisely described and reflected in the current architectural discourse. A limited terminology describing complex morphologies and an insufficient taxonomy comparing complex morphologies constrain the identification of relations between formal characteristics (physiognomy) and aesthetic and functional qualities.

This thesis would like to contribute to an intensified research on the specific aesthetic of spatial complexity focusing its socio-cultural meaning and suggestive potentials. With an architectural-aesthetic approach transdisciplinary knowledge concerning visual spatial perception and cognition is interrelated to findings concerning characteristics and potentials of complex configurations that have been developed in spatial concepts of the 20th and 21st century e.g. by the structuralist, metabolist and the organic architecture movement or in contemporary conceptions such as the design models by UN Studio or in the morphogenetic design theory.

On the basis of contemporary case studies the specific characteristics of complex morphologies will be analyzed; modes of perception and action will be outlined using phenomenological and hermeneutic methods. These findings form the background for morphological studies that aim at developing pre-architectonic models whose spatial potentials can be described and evaluated regarding options of concrete architectonic implementations.

The research interest of this thesis focuses the following main topics:
1. Defining a precise description of complex morphologies and their specific characteristics.
2. Analyzing intents, concepts, and design strategies of designers engaged with complex morphologies and outlining recurring motifs and methods in the generation of complex morphologies.
3. Developing a design methodological basis of generating complex configurations.
4. Outlining correlations between the design and the aesthetic of complex spatial compositions.

The thesis intends to generate transferable knowledge on modes of perception, adaption and action that is connected to spatial complexity. Thereby it will be possible to evaluate aesthetic and functional qualities of complex morphologies by means of criteria. Moreover a scope of applications and (new) architectonic tasks will be shown where complex morphologies might provide better solutions than conventional typologies. The morphological studies are meant to reveal types of form and modes of forming that are yet little researched for architectural purposes and marginally applied in architectural practice.