I was just reading about silk worms fabricating those Geodesic Dome’s that Buckminster Fuller first popularised (Read here: http://www.gizmag.com/silk-pavilion/27785/). What was interesting is how computerised models were used to plan this and the worms went and did what they do. It’s a very interesting synthesis of man-made and natural process to create something that isn’t 2 or 3 process away from what we find in natural eco-systems like a lot of what we create to date.
I must admit, I’ve never considered something like that with worms or animals at all. It got me thinking about there’d be scope for guiding say termites to build strong dirt based shelters for example, it’s definitely feasible. Apart from animals, I’ve thought a lot about how you might do something similar with plants, there’s some great potential in using vines and plants like bamboo to create structures. A past example is the series of root bridges of Cherrapungee, these structures are some over 500 years old and as they grow they get stronger.
I believe it would be a really interesting to explore this more, esp replicating living systems into the actual end product. Thinking just in terms of maintenance, most of what we design for needs to cater in a huge amount of human intervention to keep structures maintained, mostly it’s because we use dead materials in a living system. What happens is you’ve got this whole system designed to break down dead material (so it can be utilised), and we do everything we can to keep that system from doing what it naturally does to the products / structures we make – we try to maintain structural integrity for as long as possible against the tide. If on the other hand we utilise living material, and we do that in an intelligent way where we’ve catered for say replicating a mini ecosystem where such material comes from (ie. a particular vine for example), we don’t have the same degree of maintenance, as living things maintain themselves.
I couldn’t help but go digging around some more which led me to this extract of this Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_shaping#Plantings_for_the_future
That then led me to hearing some really interesting research by the “Eco-futurist” architect Mitchell Joachim of Terreform One – here he talks about growing buildings and living treehouse designs.
I also came across this blog: http://archurbanist.blogspot.com.au/2009/01/phrweeurb-05.html , that declares the guidelines for PHREE_Urbanism, which as far as I can tell proposes having urban environment being self sustaining, in the sense that we grow our own food and recycle our own waste within the city itself (not outside of it). Why not? Cities could be like forests -I’d really get more out of going to work in a forest.
And of course, I couldn’t go past mentioning this talk I heard a while back by AJ called “Creating loving Eco Systems”. Is it possible?