Strategies of Ecosystem Development

Source i09: Photos of Shanghai's cityscape, with a 26 year gap. Read more about it here. Truly remarkable.

Source i09: Photos of Shanghai’s cityscape, with a 26 year gap. Read more about it here. Truly remarkable.

The amazing image above shows how much can happen in a city over 26 years. We know cities are growing at amazing rates, but these images are poor at capturing any tensions of over stretched infrastructure that struggles to keep pace. Slow development is never desirable in urban growth, but it is hard not to see dystopic visuals of urban decay as the cities struggle to pay their own environmental bills.

Conversations about ecosystem development as a strategy for solving human environmental crises are clearly not new. In a paper from 1969 recently sent to me by Bruce Hinds there is a rich account of the previous thinking and inspiration that has as of yet translated into human innovation. Some of the language and concepts in the paper are clearly out of date, as most of the resilience theory work and C.S. Hollings was not yet integrated, but at the core there are some really key concepts.

Core Trends of Ecosystem Succession

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Up-Cycle like a Nudibranch

The humble nudibranch, or sea slug, could be an incredible inspiration for how designers view recycling and up-cycling, and possibly even concepts around regenerative design. It’s taken me a little while, since Tim first told me this story, but here goes my first real attempt to put my money where my mouth is around the concept of visual communication in biomimicry. Looking forward to any feedback and ideas…

Nematocyst Up-cycling

Image 1 - Anemone

Image 2 Nematocysts

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Re-Cycling, Up-Cycling, Bio-Cycling?

Google "recycled furniture" and you get some weird experiments, most of them a play on the concept of recycling like this chair made of foliage; "Commissioned by the Design Museum for the Designers in Residence programme, Harvest is a reseach project using London's flowering foliage as a raw material for furniture production. Installed in the Design Museum Tank, Jan-March 2010, and at Sawaya & Moroni, Milan April 2010"

Huge thanks to the mighty fine brains of Tim and Peter, their comments to my last post are incredibly insightful and offer a lot for designers to chew on (yes I did throw a pun in there, sorry).

I want to hear some more design voices – so I thought I would begin to articulate how I am interpreting the information flow from a design perspective and see what bounces back. How can we reverse engineer these biological models into ambitious design ideas?

Nutrient Cycles in Nature

I have a very basic understanding of nutrient cycles, and I’m likely not the only designer out there with these limitations. We’ve all seen those simple diagrams showing water flowing through a landscape, or the how nitrogen, carbon or some other basic element moves through the different layers of an ecosystem. We’ve all heard of decomposers and their vital roles. But any discussion at a molecular level is usually pretty vague.

The more I am learning in this area, the more I realize how important these principles may be for designers.

Every Organism is a Recycling Plant

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Scenarios of Sustainability & Biomimicry

I don't really have a good image to go with this post, so here are some kangaroos.

Ok wonderful people out there, I need some input. I’m framing a discussion around scenarios of sustainability and the deeper I get into the issues of design, the further I get from inspiration from nature. It may be because I am in a process of trying to over simplify things and might not be seeing the wood for the trees, so I’m looking for some feedback.

Scenarios of Sustainability:

I want to qualify that my statements below are my first attempt at articulating what the scenarios of sustainability are from a product design perspective. I’m not sure all my generalizations below will stand up to Architectural investigation (yet), and am well aware that there are huge issues (social sustainability, cultural diversity) that are not being tackled (yet).

Scenario A: We stop consuming

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