07 Morphogenesis blog

The Sea; forever changing and morphing. A good place to start for a project on morphogenesis. From the impact and outcome of waves moving across a sand bed to produce a morphogenetic outcome to the various biological surfaces that morph and grow under the ocean from Corel-like structures to shell-like sructures. Biological cell division produce the shape outcome but emergent behaviour also arises. The genetic iterative processes are abound within the sea ( The fish colouring and pigmentation is a process of chemical diffusion algorithms.)

Morphogenesis (from the Greek morphê shape and genesis creation, literally, “beginning of the shape”) is the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape. It is one of three fundamental aspects of developmental biology along with the control of cell growth and cellular differentiation, unified in evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo).

In terms of art practice the artist either mimics a biological process of some kind and applies it to a structure as in architecture. Frei Otto was using biomorphism in his work and his concepts embraced Morphogenesis. His studies led him to further research of the structure and building properties of bamboo and soap bubbles. Otto observed that given a set of fixed points, soap film will spread naturally between them to offer the smallest achievable surface area. Any child blowing bubbles can, more or less, see how this works. In 1974 the German-born civil engineer Horst Berger, working in the US, came up with the maths that allowed this process to be translated into building structure.


Biomorphic algorithms of interest to follow up on : 

circle packing algorithm:




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Frei Otto’s

 Otto, Frei, His Book “Occupying and Connecting. Thoughts on Territories and Spheres of

Influence with Particular Reference to Human Settlement”

Frei Ottto background , born in 1925, is a German architect and engineer, well known for his lightweight tensile and membrane structures. He founded in 1961 the research team Biologie und Bauen, and in 1964 the Institut für Flächentrageweke at the TescnischeHochschule in Stuttgart, 

In Occupying and Connecting. Thoughts on Territories and Spheres of Influence withParticular Reference to Human Settlement Frei Otto does not particularly look for ideas for constructive structures, but, as the very explicit title of his book says it, he explores very fundamental topics about space, how it is occupied and how places are connected.

 But more accurately he observes that two «forces» are at stake in any process of occupation: he qualifies some occupations as «distancing» (which could have been called «repulsive»), others as «attractive», and remarks that many occupation mechanisms are both attractive and distancing. Those types of «occupations» (i. e. distributions) are illustrated with sketches. Attraction and repulsion are present in two physical forces: magnetism and static electricity. Those are the forces that Otto uses in his experiments. Otto’s photos of distancing using magnets.

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Frei Otto relates to the distributions of points to «territories», whose formation is described in these words: «one demarcates the territory by the perpendicular bisectors of the nearest point.


In architecture, morphogenesis is understood as a group of methods that employ digital media not as representational tools for visualization but as generative tools for the derivation of form and its transformation often in an aspiration to express contextual processes in built form .


Above. Kristina Shea, Neil Leach, Spela Videcnik and Jeroen van Mechelen, eifFormStructure, Academie van Bouwkunst, Amsterdam, 2002
The design of this temporary structure was generated using the eifForm program, a stochastic, non-monotonic form of simulated annealing. This was the first 1:1 prototype of a design produced using eifForm and, almost certainly, the first architectural structure built where both the form and related structure were generated by a computer via design parameters and conditions rather than by explicitly described geometry. 



Above IwamotoScott Architecture, Voussoir Cloud installation,
SCI-Arc, Los Angeles, August 2008
Voussoir Cloud explores the structural paradigm of pure compression coupled with an ultra-light material system. The overall design draws from the work of engineer/architects such as Frei Otto and Gaudí who used hanging chain models to find efficient form. The hanging chain model was here coupled with vaulted surface form-finding to create a light, porous surface made of compressive elements. 


Above Beijing National Stadium, officially the National Stadium[3] ( 国家体育场; pinyin: Guójiā Tǐyùchǎng; literally: “State Stadium”), also known as the Bird’s Nest Formation: 


https://architecture.mit.edu/faculty/mark-goulthorpe Mark Goulthorpe of dECOi Architects describes his work as a form of ‘post-Gaudían praxis’, while Mark Burry, as architectural consultant for the completion of Gaudí’s Sagrada Família church in Barcelona, has been exploring digital techniques for understanding the logic of Gaudí’s own highly sophisticated understanding of natural forces.

http://www.nox-art-architecture.com Meanwhile, Lars Spuybroek of NOX has performed a number of analogue experimentations inspired by the work of Frei Otto as a point of departure for some innovative design work, which also depends on more recent software developments within the digital realm.3  

This work points towards a new ‘performative turn’ in architecture, a renewed interest in the principles of structural performance, and in collaborating more empathetically with certain progressive structural engineers. However, this concern for performance may extend beyond structural engineering to embrace other constructional discourses,such as environmental, economic, landscaping or indeed programmatic concerns. In short, what it amounts to is a ‘folding’ of architecture into the other disciplines that define the building industry.4

Digital Computation

Not surprisingly in an age dominated by the computer, this interest in material computation has been matched by an interest in digital computation. Increasingly the performative turn that we have witnessed within architectural design culture is being explored through new digital techniques. These extend from the manipulation and use of form-generating programs from L-Systems to cellular automata, genetic algorithms and multi-agent systems that have been used by progressive designers to breed a new generation of forms, to the use of the computer to understand, test out and evaluate already designed structures.


This interest in digital production has also prompted a broad shift in theoretical concerns. If the 1980s and 1990s were characterised by an interest in literary theory and continental philosophy – from the Structuralist logic that informed the early Postmodernist quest forsemiological concerns in writers from Charles Jencks to Robert Venturi, to the post-Structuralist enquiries into meaning in the work of Jacques Derrida that informed the work of Peter Eisenman and others – the first decade of the 21st century can be characterised by an increasing interest in scientific discourses. 

As such, one can detect a waning of interest in literary theories and literary-based philosophies, and an increase in interest in scientific thinking and in philosophies informed by scientific thinking and an understanding of material processes. So it is that just as the work of Jacques Derrida is fading in popularity, that of Gilles Deleuze is becoming increasingly popular. Indeed it has been through the work of secondary commentators on Deleuze, such as Manuel DeLanda, that the relevance of Deleuze’s material philosophies has been championed within architectural circles.(See Manuel DeLanda, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, Zone Books (New York))

DeLanda has coined a new term for this emerging theoretical paradigm: ‘New Materialism’. This should be distinguished from Marx’s ‘Dialectical Materialism’ in that the model is extended beyond mere economic considerations to embrace the whole of culture, and yet the principle behind Marx’s thinking – what we see on the surface is the product of deeper underlying forces – remains the same. Here we might understand cultural production not in symbolic terms, but in terms of material expressions.

It is not a question of what a cultural object might ‘symbolise’ – the dominant concern in the Postmodernist quest for interpretation and meaning – but rather what it ‘expresses’. The concern, then, is to understand culture in terms of material processes – in terms of the actual ‘architecture’ of culture itself.

Within this new configuration the economist, the scientist and the engineer are among the reassessed heroes of our intellectual horizon, and figures such as Cecil Balmond have become the new ‘material philosophers’.

It has often been said that all scientific progress has involved getting rid of substances and replacing them by processes and relations. So too has this occurred in philosophy. What must not be forgotten is that the philosopher, too, is a result of a morphogenesis. The philosopher is the coagulation, a result, a product, of a series of operations populating both her own life and all of history.


Generality refers to events that are connected through cycles, equalities, and laws. Most phenomena that can be directly described by science are generalities. Seemingly isolated events will occur in the same way over and over again because they are governed by the same laws. Water will flow downhill and sunlight will create warmth because of principles that apply broadly. In the human realm, behavior that accords with norms and laws counts as generality for similar reasons. Science deals mostly with generalities because it seeks to predict reality using reduction and equivalence.

Repetition, for Deleuze, can only describe a unique series of things or events. ?

Art is often a source of repetition because no artistic use of an element is ever truly equivalent to other uses. 

Difference in Itself

Deleuze paints a picture of philosophical history in which difference has long been subordinated to four pillars of reason: identity, opposition, analogy, and resemblance. He argues that difference has been treated as a secondary characteristic which emerges when one compares pre-existing things; these things can then be said to have differences. This network of direct relations between identities roughly overlays a much more subtle and involuted network of real differences: gradients, intensities, overlaps, and so forth

Deleuze proposes (citing Leibniz) that difference is better understood through the use of dx, the differential. A derivative, dy/dx, determines the structure of a curve while nonetheless existing just outside the curve itself; that is, by describing a virtual tangent (46). Deleuze argues that difference should fundamentally be the object of affirmation and not negation. As per Nietzsche, negation becomes secondary and epiphenomenal in relation to this primary force

Genetic Art Examples

United Visual Artists, Blueprint is an installation designed to explore the relationship and parallels between natural and artificial systems.With cells literally transferring their genes to their adjoining others, colour flows like paint across the canvas.



Data-Masks http://sterlingcrispin.com/data-masks.html

Data-masks are face masks which were created by reverse engineering facial recognition and detection algorithms. These algorithms were used to guide an evolving system toward the production of human-like faces. These evolved faces were then 3D printed as masks, shadows of human beings as seen by the minds-eye of the machine-organism. This exposes the way the machine, and the surveillance state, view human identity and this makes aspects of these invisible power structures visible.

Data-Masks are animistic deities brought out of the algorithmic-spirit-world of the machine and into our material world, ready to tell us their secrets, or warn us of what’s to come.

Cellular Forms http://www.andylomas.com/cellularFormImages.html


“We are everywhere confronted with emergence in complex adaptive systems – ant colonies, networks of neurons, the immune system, the Internet, and the global economy, to name a few – where the behavior of the whole is much more complex than the behavior of the parts.” – John Henry Holland

The concept of emergence—that the properties and functions found at a hierarchical level are not present and are irrelevant at the lower levels–is often a basic principle behind self-organizing systems. An example of self-organization in biology leading to emergence in the natural world occurs in ant colonies. The queen does not give direct orders and does not tell the ants what to do. Instead, each ant reacts to stimuli in the form of chemical scent from larvae, other ants, intruders, food and buildup of waste, and leaves behind a chemical trail, which, in turn, provides a stimulus to other ants. Here each ant is an autonomous unit that reacts depending only on its local environment and the genetically encoded rules for its variety of ant. Despite the lack of centralized decision making, ant colonies exhibit complex behaviour and have even been able to demonstrate the ability to solve geometric problems. For example, colonies routinely find the maximum distance from all colony entrances to dispose of dead bodies.


lan Turing was neither a biologist nor a chemist, and yet the paper he published in 1952, ‘The chemical basis of morphogenesis’, on the spontaneous formation of patterns in systems undergoing reaction and diffusion of their ingredients has had a substantial impact on both fields Motivated by the question of how a spherical embryo becomes a decidedly non-spherical organism such as a human being, Turing devised a mathematical model that explained how random fluctuations can drive the emergence of pattern and structure from initial uniformity. 

That was the central question that Turing addressed. He presents a theoretical model in which chemicals that are diffus- ing and reacting may produce neither bland uniformity nor disorderly chaos but something in between: a pattern 

To suggest how chemistry alone might initiate the process that leads to a define biologiccal form.

Alan Turing’s 1952 paper, proposed by an author with no real professional background in the subject he was addressing, put forward an astonishingly rich idea. The formation of regular structures by the competition between an autocatalytic activat- ing process and an inhibiting influence, both of which may diffuse through space, now appears to have possible relevance not just for developmental biology but for pure and applied chemistry, geomorphology, plant biology, ecology, sociology and perhaps even astrophysics.

A morphogen is a substance whose non-uniform distribution governs the pattern of tissue development in the process of morphogenesis or pattern formation, one of the core processes of developmental biology, establishing positions of the various specialized cell types within a tissue. More specifically, a morphogen is a signaling molecule that acts directly on cells to produce specific cellular responses depending on its local concentration.

Typically, morphogens are produced by source cells and diffuse through surrounding tissues in an embryo during early development, such that concentration gradients are set up. These gradients drive the process of differentiation of unspecialised stem cells into different cell types, ultimately forming all the tissues and organs of the body. The control of morphogenesis is a central element in evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo).




Alan Turin. The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis http://www.dna.caltech.edu/courses/cs191/paperscs191/turing.pdf


greg turk. Generating Textures on Arbitrary Surfaces Using Reaction-Diffusion https://www.google.co.uk/urlsa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjHjZvk7b7ZAhXBa1AKHchhCcMQFggsMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cc.gatech.edu%2F~turk%2Fmy_papers%2Freaction_diffusion.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2zstfkKileyn37CrnysTQG

Andy Lomas. Cellular Forms: an Artistic Exploration of Morphogenesis

Grey stokes diffusion model


Logic of circle packing:

setup an array list of random x,y points of radius r (vector)

ArrayList<Particle> particles = new ArrayList<Particle>();

ArrayList <Circle> circle;
circle= new ArrayList<Circle>();

///  not for (int i=0; i < number; i++) {

// use a while loop

while ( circle.size < number) {


position = new PVector(x, y);

//loop thru current array of circle check and change position

for (int j=0; j < circle.size(); j++) {

if ( i !=j) {

overlapping =false;

Particle otherCircles = circle.get(j);;

float dist= position -circle[j].position;

if ( dist < circle[i].radius + circle[j].radius) {

overlapping =true;


} //check radius distance

if ( ! overlapping) {

// if cirlce not overlapping place into array

circle.add( new Circle(x,y,r));



} //i not equal to same circle


}//i circles new



draw part:
for (int i = 0; i < circle.size(); i++) {
// Create a temporary arraylist to hold values of each particle class
Particle myP = circle.get(i);







does it overlap with previous circle: distance >  r1 + r2 (not overlapping)

position = new PVector(myx, myy);

float d = PVector.dist(v1, v2);
float d = v1.dist(v2);