When I think of biomimicry—a smart, sustainable approach to design that mimics nature's forms and functions—I usually think of ocean-borne wind turbines and the spiral interior of conch shells. I don't think of the hallowed halls of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), but apparently I should. ID magazine senior editor Monica Khemsurov visited three designers at RISD's Nature Lab to learn what the best and brightest design innovators are learning from the birds and the bees.
The trio Khemsurov visited each picked one habitat to focus on in their showcase of biomimicry's potential. Anna Rabinowicz selected the ocean, specifically zeroing in the skeletons of sea creatures like fan coral and barnacles. She designed a colander that performs as underwater coral does to filter water out of larger objects that it aims to keep within its grasp. "The mesh is designed for the maximum pass-through of water, while a few tentacle-like ridges give structure to the object," explains Khemsurov. Inspired by the same sources, Rabinowicz also made a pair of flippers for swimming which have the same vascular-looking network of material on the fin as the colander, simultaneously letting water pass through and establishing firm resistance to help the swimmer move efficiently.
Todd Bracher chose to create designs inspired by land. His Dendron LED lamp starts from the idea that sitting under a tree canopy is one of the most pleasant ways to experience overhead light. The lamp filters the light like leaves, and stands a lofty 10-feet tall, giving an even stronger sense of sitting at the base of an old tree.
The third designer, Philip Worthington, took his cue from the air, merging the flight patterns of butterflies and dragonflies with high-tech computer-based algorithms to generate a pattern based on the motion of flight. The resulting artwork is a distinctly digital image that underscores the natural beauty of flying insects with bright colors and smooth lines.
Photos: Jeff Barnett-Winsby