Thursday, July 23, 2009

Inspirational Spaces

Last Monday, E2 gathered at Customs House in eager anticipation to listen to Alex Ritchie (E2) and John Bilmon (PTW) share their inspiration around what constitutes an inspirational space as part of AGDA's latest series of public talks. Both, impressive in their delivery, talked about the relationship between nature and architecture. This symbiotic relationship shed some light on just some of the places that Alex sources inspiration from when starting a new project. What I found most interesting from this talk is how nature informs engineering in so many ways. For example, who would have thought that the structure of the Millennium Dome was inspired by a Jelly Fish. In fact, when you look at many of the most impressive buildings in the world, much of the inspiration comes from the natural engineering that lives in our lands and deep in our oceans. Take for example Buckminster Fuller's futurist visions of cityscapes, where he addresses the importance of sustainable growth, taking its learnings and borrowing from some of natures core values, e.g. camouflage, adaptation, growth, interrelations and change.

John Bilmon's astounding and comprehensive description of The Water Cube - the Aquatic Centre for 2008 Olympics in Beijing, further compounded the importance nature plays in the role of engineering. Through an extensive series of design concepts, John explained how the planning team at PTW Architects had gone through a gruelling audit to identify how best to emulate the natural formations of bubbles as part of the Cube's structure. The team also ensured that the building naturally related to the adjacent Olympic building to strengthen the relationship between the gender roles each building had with each other, the yin to the yan. It was impressive to learn how nature had all the answers to some of their biggest engineering challenges and in fact the final structure was informed by Chinese culture, history and geographical location.

Although it may be an unfamiliar term to most people, biomimicry, or looking to nature for design inspiration, is not a new approach to solving design challenges. In fact, its guiding principles have served to inspire architectural works, breakthroughs, and consumer products for centuries.

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