Thursday, January 19, 2012

Biomimicry in Architecture, and in My Life

I just got back from my fourth BProfessional intensive in Almaria, Spain, and as always, it was a transformative experience.  While there I had the pleasure of meeting and learning from Michael Pawlyn, British architect and founder of Exploration Architecture, a firm focused exclusively on sustainable projects that take inspiration from nature.  His book "Biomimicry in Architecture" is a gorgeous treatise on embodying natural forms and processes into the built environment, and for those of you who haven't seen this TED talk, I highly recommend it.  

In this TED talk and in our session, he eloquently describes what drew me to biomimicry in the first place, that it is a positive way of thinking and talking about sustainable design.  It doesn't focus on incremental changes, but on complete paradigm shifts that change your perspective.  He says that biomimicry is about "synergies, and abundance, and optimizing" and "sets people's souls ablaze."  I couldn't agree more.  I had the same feeling after my first BProfessional intensive that I did after reading "Cradle to Cradle" by William McDonough - it was a paradigm shift in the way we look at fitting in with this world.

The idea of mimicking the interactions between mature ecosystems, as shown in Grahm Wiles' "Cardboard to Caviar" project and the Sahara Forest Project, is particularly appealing to me.  Mr. Pawlyn talks about competition as a sign of an immature ecosystem where in mature ecosystems, symbiotic relationships are the standard.  To me, that's radical thinking in our capitalist environment where everyone, it seems, is out for themselves.  But we aren't going to change the world to be more sustainable within the competitive power structures that exist today.  We need a paradigm shift.  The following became our mantra for the week:
Go fast = go alone
Go far = go together
I hope to embody this meme everyday in my work and life.  It goes against the normal business grain, so this won't be an easy challenge to live up to.  But it is necessary to accomplish great things.  We need networks.  We need collaborators.  We need to work together.  Biomimicry, for me, is so much more than mimicking forms and processes into design.  It's about reconnecting with the natural world and embodying the ethics of sustainability within my work and life.  It's about reconnecting with the genius of the place I live in and learning from life around me.  And it's about setting lofty goals and living my life trying to achieve them.

As always, the BProfessional intensive retreats are intense sessions of visioning and transformation and I feel so fortunate to be on this path.

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