Putting the ‘Ph’ in PhD

To earn a PhD, a student must make an original contribution to his or her field of study. The novelty requirement can channel the student into a highly specialized research area. Whether measuring propulsion pressures produced when penguins poop or the effect of cocaine on honey bee dance behavior, to borrow some EXTREME examples, it’s important to periodically climb out of the rabbit hole and pause for philosophical reflection. For students specializing in biomimicry, this means asking:

  • What does a world built through biomimetic innovation look like?
  • Does the biomimicry community have a shared vision for the future?
  • If so, what mode of inquiry will help us achieve that shared vision?

We are pioneers in this field, and as such, have a responsibility to contribute to its philosophical development.

I recently made a modest contribution to the philosophical development of biomimicry via a publication in Global Built Environment Review. The article, titled “Biomimetic Buildings: The Emerging Future of Architecture,” is open access. You can download it here.  In the article, I try to develop coherent responses to common criticisms of biomimicry, which stem from philosophical misunderstandings. See abstract below.

Biomimicry is sustainable innovation inspired by Earth’s diverse life forms which, thanks to billions of years of evolutionary refinement, embody high-performance, resource-efficient design solutions. Dismissing large potential ecological and economic returns associated with biomimicry, critics argue the approach 1) diminishes the role of the human designer; 2) relies on suboptimal models due to evolutionary incrementalism; 3) demands humans repress their impulse to build; and 4) depletes architecture of human meaning. The purpose of this article is to defend the merits of biomimicry by revealing how poorly founded these assertions are. Each is based on an outdated paradigm that we must shed in order to nurture a new era of architecture.

Let me know what you think of the article in the comment section!

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