A phenomenological interpretation of biomimicry in sustainable design

  • YEAR
    Klein, Lance
    2009 Conference Papers
    Conference Papers
    Detail & Atmosphere


In this paper, biomimicry is defined as imitating or taking inspiration from nature’s forms and processes to solve human problems (Benyus 1997). As the design community realises the tremendous impact human constructions have on the world, environmental designers look to new approaches like biomimicry to advance sustainable design. Building upon the claim made by some biomimicry scientists that a full emulation of nature engages form, ecosystem, and process, this paper uses a phenomenological approach to interpret human and environmental wholeness. Phenomenology broadens biomimicry’s scientific and technical focus on nature and considers how wholeness can be found among form, ecosystem, and process; and between people and environment. The paper argues that, without a deeper, more responsive connectedness among people, nature, and built environment, any proposal for sustainable design will ultimately be incomplete and thus unsuccessful.

The paper reinterprets four environmental designs from the perspective of human and environmental wholeness: American architect Eugene Tsui’s hypothetical Ultima Tower; South African architect Michael Pearce’s Eastgate project in Zimbabwe; the Altamont Pass Wind Energy Development in California; and Montana philosopher Gordon Brittan’s Windjammer wind turbine. The claims developed in this critique identify considerations and approaches that move beyond replacement technologies and systems to describe a way of environmental designing and making that is necessary for actualizing a more realistic sustainability in regard to both the natural and human-made worlds.


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