Although the book was published in 2009, the origin of this publication dates back to the year 1964, from an investigation about “Shorter paths between two points” made by Frei Otto at the Institut für leichte Flächentragwerke in Stuttgart. This work was followed by others about networks and reticles in nature “Wide span two dimensional frameworks; 1970-1985” and “Natural structures“. The research carried out by Frei Otto is of clear interdisciplinary vocation, as a result of collaborations with biologists such as Ulrich Kull and Johann Gerhard Helmcke, as well as being focused on topology, mathematics or self-organized systems.
Otto, as Heinz Von Foerster already did, designs an experimental apparatus with floating magnetized pins that generates a self-organized system through repulsion and attraction.
The book is not presented as a finished investigation but as the germ of different ways to explore. It is a work on occupation processes (settlements, cities, urban planning) and connection processes (communications, infrastructures), but focused both from a morphogenetic and exclusively formal point of view. That is to say, Otto proposes a geometrical investigation on the evolution of the form, but deviating the look towards already existing processes in nature or in those others generated by the technology, like the experimental prototype devised by Otto that measures the relations between the occupation and the distance between objects. Only the last pages of the book are devoted to how these evolutionary patterns can be applied or transferred to urban growth or development.
This look was not new in Frei Otto. A work similar to this one but carried out from a point structural point of view can be found in “Finding Forms. Towards and Architecture of the Minimal” by OTTO, Frei and RASCH, Bodo.The methodology of the research is very clear and systematic, and is carried out from the individual and simple to the collective and complex. Occupation systems are analyzed first on points, lines and surfaces to subsequently evolve into meshes or grids, both static and flexible. The final objective is to provide architects and urban designers self-organized systems for human settlements.