In contrast to monumental architecture which stands fixed through time, evolutive design enables an architecture to adapt to multiple situations. The main idea of evolutive architecture is that it’s different components can be adapted and changed later on without having to destroy them. It seems only natural that evolutive architecture would be compatible with the concepts of «free plan» and «modularity» and in fact be considered as one of the basic tools of a more actual way of building, less driven by capitalist motives.

Les Marelles 1971-75

In the 1970’s architect B. Kohn and G. Maurios developed an experimental concept of evolutive housing architecture. The aim of the concept was to enable the people who would wish to buy/rent a place in this complex to draw their own plan. During the discussion with the architects the clients were presented with an empty structural grid (in plan and 1:10 model) representing the modular structure which they could then fill and arrange as they wanted. They were also helped in the design process by a psychiatrist in order to be able to better express the way they wanted to inhabit their apartments. 

The Basic system of the structure is a simple module composed of four pillars and beams linking the pillars forming a grid. The Concrete beams and pillars being hollow all the technical equipment and pipes can run horizontally and vertically through them. This also means that the functional equipment and sanitaries must be placed on one of these axes, the rest is free to adapt to the client’s will. 

The project failed to work as planned due  to a lack of motivation from the promoters and in the end only about 10% of the 100 apartments were actually designed by the inhabitants themselves. Despite it’s premature abandon the project wasn’t a total failure and proved that given more time and better organisation the system could have been viable. It is therefore quite disappointing to see that these systems have not only been abandoned but forgotten altogether. The families living now in the Marelles have indeed no idea of how their building was first meant to work, and we can easily suppose that the floor-plans will never be able to change as intended.

Plan drawn by the inhabitants

An other failed example of evolutive architecture (which shares a lot of common points with metabolism) can be seen in Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower which was also meant to change. The capsules were designed to have a lifespan of 25 years and the be replaced without having to touch the main structure, instead it is now falling into ruin…