Formation and Variation:
Woltereck's Concept of Reaktionsnorm
& the Potentials of Environment

Thresholds 42: HUMAN / Description
"What constitutes an architecture that meaningfully engages with the human and its processes? Does Homo sapiens have specific habitat requirements or preferences? Is architecture powerful enough to guide the course of evolution? What counts as technology and how does it shape the species?

In the last decade innovations in cognitive imaging, computer interfaces, communication technologies, surrogate natures, sensory mediators, and global tracking have reshaped our understanding of the self. Can this shift inform new approaches in occupant-based design or are we still pushing towards an enlightenment-based, rationalist perspective of the human as a neurobiological mechanism? Do the technologies of our time continue to force us into a deterministic and mechanistic view of both occupants and design or have we formed new gateways of artistic and architectural possibility?"
(Editor: Tyler Stevermer)

This text explores the evolutionary concept of Reaktionsnorm, as characterized by the early 20th century German scientist Richard Woltereck, regarding it as the source of nature’s creative potential and thusly the underlying mechanism by which we as humans have evolved. The text re-situates Human history not as the final result of a long progression, but rather as the actualization of a particular pathway, one potentiality out of an infinite number of alternatives as yet not realized. In combination with advancements in digital techniques of making, Human development redefined presents architects with a new responsibility to not only rethink the spaces we design and inhabit, but to also rethink their potentials as environments capable and even primed for the development of Human evolutionary novelty.

A PDF of this text may be downloaded here → Formation and Variation

A PDF of the Thresholds 42: Human issue may be found here → 42: Human Thresholds