NATURE & DESIGN The ‘model of nature’ has been used as a source of inspiration for design of the human environment for milennia. The forms, structures and organising principles found in nature have inspired countless concepts, patterns, processes and products in art, design and architecture. The way that nature is employed in design correlates quite significantly with the prevailing attitudes toward nature at that particular point in time. Pre-Enlightenment, the prevailing understanding of the world, across many cultures was Holistic. Holism (from holos, a Greek word meaning all, whole, entire, total), is the idea that natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) and their properties, should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts. This often includes the view that systems somehow function as wholes and that their functioning cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts(Oshry 2008). The “Enlightenment” of the 18th century experienced a shift from the holistic, organic view of the world to a mechanistic, reductionistic understanding. Reductionism in science says that a complex system can be explained by reduction to its fundamental parts. For example, the processes of biology are reducible to chemistry and the laws of chemistry are explained by physics. One particular turning point can be attributed to the invention of the microscope, which provided a perception of the world that was much smaller, segmented, observable and quantifiable. Before the world was broken down into the various disciplines familiar
Engineering and so forth; Nature, and its many components were understood within the whole semantic network that connected it to the world. (Foucault 1970). Nicholas A. Christakis explains that “for the last few centuries, the Cartesian project in science has been to break matter down into ever smaller bits, in the pursuit of understanding. “ (Clark, 2011) In the 18th century with primacy attributed to the observable world, and all of those philosophies, symbols, myths and anecdotes dispelled from books on the Natual Sciences and therefore common understanding. Form took precedence. Architects and designers absorbed motifs from nature into their designs. Ernst Haeckels scientific illustrations of nature influenced architecture and other design disciplines which absorbed the motifs from nature and employed them artistically (Bergdoll 2007 p13) The symmetry and organisation of the organisms reflect the methodological approach of science illustration, but there is a prevailing aesthetic which undoes any notion of objectivity. They do however beautifully illustrate the primacy of observation. For Ruskin, the Romantic writer, artist and social commentator foliage, flowers, and fruit, “intended for our gathering, and for our constant delight” (Ruskin, 2008 p211)are paradisial decorative motifs (Fig003). Ruskin’s delight unconsciously mirrored the taxonomic systems of subordination attributed to his time. The prevailing notion of nature was that it was beautiful rather than useful. It was used only to decorate homes, exemplified by William Morris’s wallpaper designs (Fig.005) which in their symmetry appear to almost mechanise the forms of foliage.
Biomimetic Design for Landscape Architecture