Bee Station – Cohabitation

Image source James Hutchinson: The ceramic orb creates a protected space for a sugary energy boost for tired bees battling the urban terrain.

This gorgeous, thoughtful piece of design is already making the rounds on the web, see Core77 and Inhabitat’s blog posts, but I think it is too special not to mention.

James Hutchinson has designed a resting station for bees, aimed at encouraging urban residents to offer a moment of respite for the busy little insects. It is James’s hope that it may help prevent the alarming loss of bees occurring around the world, known as Colony Collapse Disorder.


I love the design for all the same reasons as the other design blogs, but especially due to my personal obsession around co-habitation. The general concept suggests design should not be solely human-centred, but as my dear friend Carla Gould would say, should be life centred. Seeing what James Hutchinson has done is an example of “bee” centred design, where he has taken into consideration all the needs of the insect and used that to drive his design process.

That the final object is desirable to humans and easy to install in any backyard is a sign of total, thoughtful design methodology. But, the real insight to me is the recognition that there is more than one species to design for.

Biomimicry and Design Definition

Charles Eames definition of design on the left, my personal definition of biomimicry design on the right. Initial diagram found here.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about what design’s role, and value, is within biomimicry, and the reverse conversation that explores biomimicry’s value to design. The conversation seems painfully circular, so I wanted to attempt a diagram that could help me give shape to the conversation.

How does biomimicry challenge designers?
How can designers validate biomimicry?

For those sensitive to my obsessive use of design, please insert; “creative problem solver” in my following exploration.

Charles Eames diagram of Design

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Architecture for Birds

Continuing the Co-habitation Discussion

Home sweet home... the nest is in the yellow steel guard beam is the down town loft for the demanding chicks.

We discovered a bird’s nest wedged inside a cross beam hanging at the entrance of our condominium parking garage. It’s a brilliant example of nature’s opportunism, carving out homes in unlikely and unplanned locations throughout the city.

Our discovery feels like a hidden treasure. The steel beam has become a little secret moment of magic to watch. If we get this much pleasure from chirping chicks in a steel tube, why isn’t there more of this downtown?

Why isn’t there more integration? Cottages have their bird boxes and feeders, but not downtown. Why not integrated into the tower’s building envelope?

Nature is a Pest?

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Nature as Stakeholder

User focus group interviews in nature, if only it was this easy... image by "Mundo"

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

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