The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture

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fall 2008

ARC 393:
Biomimetic Strategies for Self Sufficiency

April Clark
Edward Richardson

Intro.ARC 393/394

“Biomimicry (from bios, meaning ‘life’ and mimesis, meaning ‘to imitate’) is a design principle that seeks sustainable solutions to human problems by consulting and emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with.” — The Buckminster Fuller Institute

01 Introduction

The intent of the studio is to use the research of nature as a method for finding opportunities for a sustainable progressive architecture. Here nature will be mined for its performative characteristics and how they might inspire a broader range of systemic thinking in architecture. The patterns and principles of nature represent not just evolutionary outcomes but fundamental strategies for the dynamic responsive systems of life. Transpositions from nature to architecture must operate above the level of mere form making, the intent of the studio is to marry pattern with operative method.

02 Germ | Scaling | Proliferation

The project will be divided into three phases. In the first phase, germ, each student will research a biological system and will find a germ, a strategy by which the chosen system survives, propagates, grows, or acquires | sustains energy; a strategy of self-sufficiency. In the second phase, scaling, the students will explore the scaling potential for their germ strategy over a series of proportional magnitudes. In the third phase, proliferation, students will explore how their germ systems might proliferate in relationship with conventional understanding of space and architecture. Here a program will be presented as a host for exploration and the students will further develop an integrated biomimetic sustainable design solution leading up to the final review.

03 Microregion:

Zilker Park | www.ci.austin.tx.us/zilker | Zilker Botanical Garden | www.zilkergarden.org

Zilker Botanical Garden is ideally located in the center of Texas' capital city. The gardens are on land that is magnificently endowed by nature with handsome trees, natural grottoes, and aquatic habitats that have been integrated into a design of spectacular beauty and tranquillity. Featured gardens include a Japanese garden, xeriscape demonstration garden, rose garden, cactus garden, bedding displays, floral display garden, butterfly trail, butterfly garden, and herb & fragrance garden and the Hartman Prehistoric Garden.

04 Program:

Herbarium | Specimen Archive and Research Center

A herbarium houses the documentation of the world's flora; the specimens are the key to understanding plant relationships, geographic distributions, economic usefulness, even their molecular makeup. As we lose natural habitats the world over, herbaria increasingly serve as a record of the recent history of plant life, and as a repository of precious genetic information. Herbaria hold the tools for our understanding of the plant world.
— The Harvard University Herbaria Description

The intent is to design a Herbarium for Texas and North American Species adjacent to the Zilker Botanical Garden where researchers can see plant species in a live habitat alongside the dry pressed specimens of the collection. In herbariums, scientists investigate evolutionary outcomes in nature, advancing science; the studio will compliment this focus by mining nature to discover potential for technological advancements for a performative architecture. The structures will pose the question: How can we re-imagine the relationship between human beings and living eco-systems?