• Soft Systems
    Sanford Kwinter

Drawings by neuro-anatomist Santiago Ramon Y Cajal, late 19th and early 20th century.

The studies in this book cover the rise of formal thought in the life sciences, and its progressive separation from the habits of mind of the mechanistic model of inquiry associated with classical physical thought and the rise of scientific method. Biological thought was largely distinguished by a twin focus on form and relations and so held special fascination for architects and artists, although often at odds with standard models of inquiry. Discoveries in the life sciences in the twentieth century, followed by the advent of the computer and certain innovative models in mathematics, gave way to profound changes in how design was conceived and executed. The study proposed here provides many of the philosophical principles and the historical rationale connecting current design work to earlier developments, a connection rapidly being lost as the computer is increasingly placed at the center and origin of formal innovation today.

Sanford Kwinter is professor of architectural theory and criticism at Harvard Graduate School of Design and codirector of the Master's in Design Studies Program. He holds a doctorate in comparative literature from Columbia University and was founder and coeditor of ZONE and Zone Books for nearly twenty years. He is the author of Architectures of Time, Mutations (The American City), Far From Equilibrium, and Requiem: For the City at the End of the Millennium, and coeditor of ZONE 1/2: The Contemporary City and ZONE 6: Incorporations.