Capstone Project 2023 — The Dance of Life: A New Direction for Evolutionary Architecture and Social Innovation

This was a cross-disciplinary master-level studio course for students in architecture, urban geography and interior architecture, with the teachers Antti Ahlava (prof.) and Heini Saari (tutor). The student works were either on urban design or building design and we worked on two sites: first on Tervasaari in Helsinki and then the main task of the course concentrated on Ethelburga in Battersea, London.

The theme of the course was qualitative evolutionary architecture for social innovation. Evolutionary design approach can be applied to architecture to generate and refine designs that meet specific criteria or goals, using an iterative process of mutation, recombination, and selection. This allows architects to explore a wide range of possible solutions and optimise for specific criteria. Evolutionary methods have this far been used in quantitative development (based on numbers), whileas, in this project, the emphasis was on qualitative issues and especially on the possibility to advance architectural and social creativity. Goals and parameters in computational evolutionary design require better and more varied definition –  this cannot only be technical performance and efficiency. The quantitative approach is fitting to engineering, or design theory, when a design process is typically viewed as problem-solving activity, where the goal is to create a solution that meets specific criteria or objectives, but in the case of architecture, the goal setting should be something else than problem solving or quantities. A design process is only very poorly explained in terms of quantitative goal setting, constraints and rules. The skill of a professional in architecture might be better expressed in the actual framing of the problem to be addressed. The qualitative characteristics of experiencing architecture can be related to many parameters presently often neglected in architectural imagination such as placemaking, qualities related to time and movement, improvements of the the quality of life, types in architecture, experience, relationships, rarity, values as well as the informative quality of architecture.

The steps for qualitative evolutionary design we used were:

1 Define the input.

2 Select your qualitative topic

3 Research how the success of your specific goal – its “fitness measure criteria” has been measured earlier and elsewhere.

4 Decide on your own measurement technique

5 Generate an initial “population” of design alternatives

6 Measure the fitness of your sketches (population) against your success parameters and select the best ones for further development

7 Morphogenesis and variability: Apply evolutionary “operators” such as mutation, recombination, and selection, to generate new design variations from the initial selections

8 Repeat the process

9 Refine the solution

The outcomes in the course were videos, combining narrative and architectural plans, or in the case of the students of urban geography, videos on their research findings.

Project videos

August Stange:

Cian Evers:

Eeva Rosenqvist:

Elmo Holopainen:

Gideon Oladosu:

Karolin Kull:

Liina Kiviö:

Qualitative Evolutionary Design for Tervasaari Island, Helsinki

In collaboration with Shibaura Institute of Technology, Tokyo
Eeva Rosenqvist – August Stange-Chen I Li – Ryutaro Tsuchida – Momo Nakashima:
Jiyoung Choi – Takemura Souyou – Gokawa Yuya-Tuan Phan:
Cian Evers – Karolin Kull – Mimiyama Taiyo – Hirai Rina – Mizushima Taisuke:
Ayaki Mori – Kazuki Takahashi – Yoko Hara – Liina Kiviö:

Qualitative Evolutionary Design for Ethelburga Estate, Battersea, London

In collaboration with Royal College of Art, London
Eeva Rosenqvist:
Karolin Kull:
Liina Kiviö: