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Rediscovering Goethe’s Concept Of Polarity: A new direction for architectural morphogenesis

Gökmen, Sabri
This paper will introduce Goethe's concept of polarity to discuss its theoretical and computational implications on natural and architectural morphogenesis (1). Polarity, as a dualist principle, is found in most of Goethe's body of works, particularly in his treatise on colour and botanical writings. This concept is explored from a morphogenetic perspective to reconsider Goethe's engagement with natural sciences during Enlightenment where he transfers his ideas on form and growth to architecture. In the first part, morphogenesis as a concept for the study of organic growth is discussed that combines modern research in biology and architecture. In the second part, Goethean morphology as a unified science founded on polar principles is presented to discuss a historical perspective to morphogenesis. Here, Goethe's concept of metamorphosis is highlighted as a principle founded on polarity, formulated with alternating cycles of expansion and contraction. These concepts are explicated using an algorithmic study of leaf development to discuss its morphogenetic application to the study of form and growth in natural morphogenesis. In the last part, Goethe's morphological views are extended towards architecture within the framework of organicism where his ideas on the polarity are directed towards the aesthetic reception and formal development of the built environment. Comparing the form of two Gothic cathedrals, Laon and Noyon, the paper will offer a developmental model based on the concept of metamorphosis as an alternative trajectory for morphological research in architecture.