Tianjin Workshop

Architects, engineers, and materials scientists have been attracted to biomimicry for two primary reasons: for guidance about how to improve technology, and for solutions to the environmental problems that technology has caused. This seemingly contradictory interest is fraught with the challenges inherent in radically transforming industry while attempting to address the bewildering complexities of natural systems. As a result of the needs for action and simplification, humanity has pursued a hypernatural agenda, creating bio-inspired and bio-based technologies that are defined by a narrow set of cultivated traits without their attendant drawbacks.

In this workshop, students work in teams to develop a material solution to an architectural problem related to the theme of material and energy economy. Students begin by researching biological precedents and attempt to translate their salient features or operations into architectural constructs. The goal is to develop projects that perform like, rather than simply look like, biological systems. Students work fluidly between the hemispheres of design and research, allowing one to inform the other. Emphasis is placed on unconventional thinking. This is an opportunity to question established architectural production methods and to think critically about accepted material and construction conventions.

“Hypernatural Architecture.” Co-taught with Marc Swackhamer (UMN) and Wei Yang (Tianjin University). Undergraduate and graduate design workshop, Tianjin University.

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