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More Neo-Biological Design
Alex Steffen, 30 Nov 03

Bruce sends still more examples of design inspired by nature, culled from the Net by our stalwart Viridian allies.

First, this exhibition at the Victoria and Albert of "zoomorphic" architecture, complete with a highly recommended catalog:

"In architecture, this development comes at an opportune moment. The old dogmas of both the Modernists and their repudiators have collapsed. Meanwhile, there are new materials and a new bravado among structural engineers that allow forms imagined on a computer screen actually to be constructed. The technical possibility and the cultural mood are in rare conjunction. Freed from the constraints - ideological and physical - that favored rectilinear designs, architects are celebrating with an extravagant eruption of wild forms that go beyond the merely organic and promise to usher in a period of biological baroque." (To which Bruce responds, "I like this analysis a lot, but... Tech Nouveau must possess some ideological and physical constraints in order to last, because otherwise there is no grain to kick against, and no way to measure virtuousity in performance. The missing ideological and physical constraints are in 'sustainability,' which is practically nothing *but* a set of constraints, and very difficult, very galling ones.")

Then the examples start: The Nagoya Expo 2005 Tower; The Eden Project; The Plashet School Footbridge; The Auditorium Parco della Musica; Foster's Swiss Re Headquarters...

There's a key principle lurking here. Biomimicry, computerized design breakthroughs, the increasingly cheap ability to measure energy and material flows, and breakthroughs in green building techniques now make possible buildings which are vastly more sustainable. But we're also learning that the path to those buildings leads through design drawn from nature. All of which reminds me of Bucky Fuller's line that he never set out to design anything that was beautiful, but if he finished an innovative design and found it wasn't beautiful, he knew something was wrong. If this, indeed, proves to be the decade of sustainable design, it will also be the decade of nature-inspired designs which are wild, strange and very beautiful.

((Update: Tani sends word of the Metropolis Next Generation Design Prize, for "a designer or architect seeking seed money to develop a Big Idea that will make our designed environment better, safer, more sustainable." Seems like a perfect opportunity to vet some innovative neo-biological projects, if you've got 'em. But hurry: deadline's Dec. 31st))

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