Nature as StakeholderPosted: June 18, 2011
Continuing the discussion around Genius of Place, a couple of different conversations have recently raised some ideas to bounce around.
Biomimicry with nature as only a source of inspiration does not guarantee “sustainability”. I’ve already discussed that here. Nature must be a stakeholder in the project, recognized as an entity with needs that must be met and designed for within the project. As a designer, this language opens up tangible paths, as every discipline of designers has a suite of tools for understanding the array of stakeholders, from users, to decision makers, to influencers, and everything in between. This then opens an intriguing question; “How to evolve existing methods so that they can be used on a different species?”
What would a focus group look like from nature? Ecosystem focus group studies to understand the impact of a building?
How do you “interview” the organisms who may be the end users of your site, manufacturing process, or shipping network?
How do you capture and communicate those needs as design opportunities and design criteria?
Shifting design tools away from human centrism
A friend, Carla Gould, is focusing her work on co-habitation and has spent the last few years researching what it means to design for a species that is not human. For her industrial design thesis she took on the misunderstood pigeon as her target user. For some of you that might not seem that wild, but industrial design is ALL about human centric issues. The core focus of everything is the understanding and shaping of human experience. To follow the identical process and apply it to a different species is quite a twist on the design methodology. That the other species is one that we invited into our lives only to reject once no longer needed makes it quite provocative.
It’s an ongoing exploration, with an emerging array of outcomes, and a discussion I think is incredible to follow. There is an article that describes some of the pigeon experience research.
The concept of nature as stakeholder has incredible implications as it requires us to shift from an entirely human centric view of the world, but the language empowers designers, engineers and architects to build on their existing methodologies, adapting them to an evolving landscape of design.