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  • Cenette Dippenaar

Using Biomimicry to heal the landscape

Following the industrial revolution, the urban influx and rapid development became problematic for the environment. Today, urbanization and human waste leaves us with very few healthy sites.

The rapid development has left us with water scarcity, pollution, the urban heat island effect and many other environmental issues. As we continue to disturb the earth’s surface, biodiversity decreases which leads to the destruction of our landscapes. The only naturalistic sites we are left with are fragmented and disturbed.Statistics show that in 50 years, 75% of all the current plant species will be lost. To attempt to mitigate these problems, we need to adopt a holistic approach.

Janine Benyus, a scientist, explains “Biomimicry is an innovative method that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” (Benyus,J:2016). Biomimicry and the idea that nature does indeed know best, is becoming a very popular theme that can be noticed in many disciplines. More and more processes and products are mimicking examples that are found in nature. Further explained, “the core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with: energy, food production, climate control, benign chemistry, transportation, collaboration, and more” (Unknown, 2016). Biomimicry can cater for human needs, while conserving local biodiversity and natural resources.

An example of a project that was inspired by nature is Grimshaw’s Water Theatre. Grimshaw’s task was to regenerate an area on the coast of Las Palmas. The concept included a promenade, a botanical garden and a theatre. Michael Pawlyn, an architect from Grimshaw, explained that “We decided to put forward a scheme that showed how the island could move towards self-sufficiency in water and energy, without relying on fossil fuels.” (Thomson, D:2016) Their objective was to turn seawater into potable water.

The theatre’s design was inspired by the Namibian Fog-basking beetle. This beetle allows moisture in the air to condense on its back. The beetle then adjusts its body so that the water flows into its mouth. This process inspired the firm to design upright evaporation units. Cold water is pumped from the ocean to keep these units cool. They are orientated in such a way that the warm seawater breeze blows towards it. The air condenses on these units and trickles down to the storage units. The amount of water that is collected is enough to supply the 70 000 square meter project. The theatre is a good example of how a design can be productive for people and at the same time, increase biodiversity and conserve natural resources.

Ian Mcharg, a renowned landscape architect, explains that in order to stop this cycle of destruction we have to work with nature (Mcharg,I:1969). We have to work with nature and turn to our new technologies in order to start healing the landscape.

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