The Monumental Impulse: Architecture's Biological Roots

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MIT Press, 2001 - Architecture - 280 pages
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We humans owe an immense architectural debt to many other species. Indeed, the firsthexagons humans saw may have been in honeycombs, the first skyscrapers termitaries (termitehigh-rises), and the first tents those of African weaver ants. In The Monumental Impulse, arthistorian George Hersey investigates many ties between the biological sciences and the buildingarts. Natural building materials such as wood and limestone, for example, originate in biologicalprocesses. Much architectural ornament borrows from botany and zoology. Hersey draws strikinganalogies between building types and animal species. He examines the relationship between physicalstructures and living organisms, from bridges to mosques, from molecules to mammals.Insects,mollusks, and birds are given separate chapters, and three final chapters focus on architecturalform and biological reproduction. Hersey also discusses architecture in connection with the body'sinterior processes and shows how buildings may be said to reproduce, adapt, and evolve, like otherinanimate or "nonbiotic" entities such as computer programs and robots. The book is both learned andentertaining, and is abundantly illustrated with fascinating visual comparisons.

  

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Contents

Prebiotic Molecules
2
DNA and Other Spiral Communications
5
Crystals
11
Viruses
15
Cells
17
SingleCelled Organisms
21
LEAVES AND FLOWERS
25
Phyllotaxis
26
Northwest Coast BirdArchitecture
92
MAMMALS TERRITORY AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
97
Primate Territories
98
human Territories
100
Territorial Symbolism in Architecture
103
Territorial Colossi
104
Territories of Human Shape
108
Procreating Colossi
111

Ruskin Riegl Baltrušaitis and Mendell
29
Spiral Symmetry
32
Fibonacci Distributions
35
TransSpecific Morphologies
38
SHELLS
41
Mollusca and Spirals
42
Seashells and Stairs
48
Malacological Mapping
51
Rocaille
54
Terebra
55
Seashell monoliths
58
INSECTS
61
The Monumental impulse of the Bees
62
The Bees Body Bauplan
64
Honeycombs
65
Honeycombs Cells
69
Beehives
70
Ants Pyramids
72
Terimites Villes Radieuses
74
BIRDS
79
Dinosaurs and Bridges
80
Weaverbirds
82
Bowerbirds
84
Ornamented Bodies
88
Flight and Feeding
90
PENIS PARADIGMS
115
The Penis as an Architectural Attractor
116
Sperm Competition
118
Homunculi
120
Obelisks
123
The Penis as a Tower
128
The Female Genital Palace
137
The Reproductive Tract
138
More Sperm Competition
143
Anatomies and Their Names
144
Vaginal Fountains and Fetal Skycrapers
145
Samarasa
147
Eggs Fruit Nuts and Domes
149
THE BIOLOGY OF ARCHITECTURAL REPRODUCTION
157
Mendelian Genetics
158
Architectural DNA and the Chaos Game
162
The Poggioreale Principle
164
Fractal Reproduction
167
Thoughts on Architectural Heritability
172
WHERE TO NOW?
179
NOTES
185
BIBLIOGRAPHY
207
INDEX
233
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

George Hersey is Emeritus Professor of Art History at Yale University. He is the author of numerous books, including The Evolution of Allure: Sexual Selection from the Medici Venus to the Incredible Hulk (MIT Press, 1996) and The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture: Speculations on Ornament from Vitruvius to Venturi (MIT Press, 1988).

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