Using Biomimicry to Rethink the “Wall” – Design ProjectPosted: November 26, 2011
Lauren Dynes, who is now doing her Masters of Architecture in Calgary, explored the redesign of the internal wall for her biomimicry project. It might sound dry to some of you, but the wall was an interesting choice because of how fundamentally unchanged and standardized it is as both a concept and a product. When we think of walls, flat white surfaces generally come to mind, along with drywall and studs, bricks and mortar or maybe concrete.
When we compare the subdivisions of space within architecture to similar metaphors in biology it is clear that our designs lack the multifuncional complexity as the membranes that occur within nature.
Bridging Design to Biology
For this project the first stage of the design process was articulating an understanding of the design challenge and translating observations into questions of nature. The core challenges at this stage being;
- What are the core challenges or opportunities within the design project? (IDENTIFY)
- How to start researching natural models. (TRANSLATE)
For those of you that are yet to try this process it can be very tricky trying to word open ended and yet specific questions of both design and nature.
In the biomimicry design spiral, the next stages are observe and abstract. We deliberately have these as two stages as they represent different modes of thinking. One focuses purely on observation and truly “seeing” the inspiration; which involves observational drawing, while the other requires synthesis of the research and therefore diagramming and abstract sketching.
We encourage our students to collect a broad palette of natural models around a specific starting point in their project. In this case, Lauren focused on structural integrity, as you can see in the images above.
The image above highlights the moment when things get really exciting. Lauren did a presentation in class that had all the different natural models, design definitions and a few design examples. It was complicated, messy and her process was beginning to get lost. It was clear that Lauren was suffering from too much information.
We pulled out the blackboard and began looking for the core differences between her design research and her biology research. The resulting table, seen in the top left hand corner of the page, was an enormous insight and outlined where the biomimicry design opportunities existed within the project.
If only we had more time…
Unfortunately, as with all projects, we run out of time as soon as it begins to get really interesting. The end point of this project was a series of playful “what if” questions, that were unfortunately never answered. On the plus side, this has been a topic that continues to re-emerge, and some of the students this semester might have stumbled upon some interesting continuations of this thinking.
In regards to the biomimicry design spiral, the above proposals would be the very beginning of the “apply” stage. Realistically, it is more like a continuation of the abstract phase, bridging back into the design context.
Going through these projects over many years, I continue to recognize how difficult it is make the transition from biology to design. Often the deepest insights are disruptive, such as a wall system that biodegrades, or unfeasible at first glance. Therefore deep synthesis of research, and highly experimental ideation is required to bridge this gap, which requires a lot of time. Next semester we will have the luxury of one project that spans the full twelve weeks, and I look forward to sharing the outcomes with you!
Many thanks to Lauren
A huge thanks to Lauren Dynes for letting me share her project, if you wish to get in contact, or look at her final graduating work from OCAD U, please have a look at her work here.