Connected \\ June 6, 2018
Learning from nature
Stefano Boeri Architects, Italy, Liuzhou Forest City in China (rendering), scheduled for completion in 2020. Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti.
The exhibition explores biomimetic and bioinformed innovations in design and technology that either model or engage nature to generate novel products and more sustainable solutions. Included are design projects ranging from preliminary concepts to realized products and buildings, as well as mixed-media sculptures, artist installations and drawings.
Rather than exploring a product angle, works by the featured artists respond to nature or pose questions, such as Emily Longbrake’s exploration into the principles behind repeating patterns in nature, like fish scales and bird feathers. Her featured sculpture Origin/Insertion I, II & III investigates the collapsible skeletal structure of a snake.
Deep observation of our natural world,” said Winchell, “can lead to the most amazing creative solutions.
Looking out her office window, exhibition curator Jane Winchell noted, “We’re surrounded by nearly 4 billion years of concept testing in nature. We have the opportunity to rethink our own problems and strategies for new ideas all the time, which is similar to what’s happening in nature. New ideas percolate through evolution. Put that into a time capsule of millions of years and you end up with loads of different solutions.”
As the Sarah Fraser Robbins Director of PEM’s Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center, Winchell hopes the exhibition will help people think differently through the lens of nature. Some designs will be as familiar as the hook and loop fastener, created by Swiss engineer George de Mestral, who went for a walk in the woods in 1941 and wondered if the burrs that clung to his socks — and his dog — could be turned into something useful. An air purifier made from a living plant and inspired by NASA research makes so much sense, as does a backpack designed to mimic sliding scales of a pangolin.
Fitting for an exhibition about nature, the show also moves outside when Sam Batchelor of Boston’s designLAB Architects comes to PEM to lead a graduate class from Mass College of Art and Design in a seven-week workshop to create a unique bioinspired structure that will open mid-August. The structure will remain for a year-long exploration by passersby along the museum’s Axelrod Garden Walkway.
Visitors will also find an interactive area called Nature’s Design Lab, a hands-on space to explore nature’s genius. The lab will integrate natural history collections, close observations of nature, design making, games and activities to illustrate and illuminate what nature can teach us about invention.
TOP PHOTO: Stefano Boeri Architects, Italy, Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), Milan, Italy, completed in 2014. Courtesy of Stefano Boeri Architetti.