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Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Consolations of Architecture

I've just read Alain de Botton's "The Consolations of Philosophy" and I watched his lecture at the Sydney Opera House on: "The Architecture of Happiness". It's all very enjoyable stuff. But I'd have to agree with the following quote from the New Statesman:

"The Architecture of Happiness is rather like a rubbery Starbucks cappuccino: it is 65 per cent shattering banality presented in a froth of Latinate polysyllables."

Mind you, reading his light weight work on the consolations of Philosophy inspired me to hunt down Montaigne's essays (which are all out at the local library, I think I'll be reading about biomimetics until they're available).

I'm still wondering if I find de Botton's work largely trivial with some profound moments...or just like one big cheap coffee. Either way, my favourite comment about architecture was that Le Corbusier's modernism was 'the greatest red herring' in design history. I enjoyed the story about Le Corbu's famous house, the Villa Savoie in Poissy. The roof leaked horribly for years and Corbusier was about to be sued by the owners. (The court case didn't go ahead due to the outbreak of WW2). Counter to his claims about modernism, this house was all about aesthetics and was an incredibly inefficient machine for living in.

Biomimetics and Design

Biomimicry is something I haven't checked up on for a while. I initially came across it while I was reading up on David Suzuki. One of the major contributors to this arena of research is Janine Benyus, who has been compiling an in-depth listing for:

"...Google for Nature’s Solutions—a public database of biological literature organized by design function. She is also developing a “biology- taught-functionally” course for engineers and designers, the only biology most will encounter in their university education. These projects are intended to create a flow structure so that nature’s ideas can move freely into human systems design."

Her book "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature" is on my must read list. It's interesting to see the close relationship biomimetics has with nanotechnology and robotics research. This is the opposite end of the spectrum from Benyus' approach which has more to do with developing sustainable designs inspired by nature.

IOP Electronic Journals has an interesting section for bioinspiration and biomimetics research papers...