Biomimicry: Design and Nature in Belize
Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011 @ 12:21 am
with Rebecca Welz
11 of us from Pratt Institute left the snow and ice of New York winter and traveled to Belize over winter break to snorkel the reef and to work with biologists, combining first hand observation of sea life with lectures on mangroves, sea grasses, and coral and fish species.
Time was set aside everyday for the group to draw sea and plant life and for notes to be taken. Everyone kept a diary of what we saw and what we did. As follow up and further development of ideas, we continue the work of exploration in a studio class that meets once a week in the spring semester at Pratt. From the information students glean from research and drawings, they will develop forms. Form development can be based on how something functions as well as how it is structured. From form exploration the students will begin to do further drawings and sketch models with their accompanying research. From sketch models further development will take place resulting in product design.As we look to nature for solutions to design problems, we will remember the excitement of floating on the surface of the sea and having chocolate colored nurse sharks and silver stingrays swimming below us. We held brittle stars and upon further research learn that Lucent Technologies studies the eyes of those creatures to make advances on lenses. Our own design methodology can evolve so that we design with the considerations of doing the least amount of harm. We not only have the experience of peering below the surface of the ocean but of asking ourselves how does nature do it? What solutions in nature can we learn from?
Student Thoughts on the Trip:
Inspiration dazzled from scurrying hermit crabs to the overlapping silhouettes of soaring birds. Blue skies melted into watery sweeps of indigo and turquoise, inviting us to jump in and discover hidden treasure. We observed glittering fish moving in and out of towering coral, graceful turtles, fluttering stingrays, alluring conch shells, and fleshy jellyfish, among many other species! The Flamingo Tongue stood out as a sample of underwater magic. This snail inhabited a creamy unassuming shell about three quarters of an inch long. He wrapped his sunset orange polka dot gills around the shell giving it a seamless patterned surface.
An integral part of the experience for me was staying on the island for the week and really getting a feel for a different way of life. This was experienced through my interactions with the locals, learning about the ecosystem and animals, and hearing about the daily lives of the Belizean people. I also enjoyed learning about the plants and animals and then going out into the mangroves and reef systems and immediately being able to identify different species first hand. Spending this time with like-minded designers who I could then confer with was also part of an unforgettable experience. The whole trip was truly amazing and has reminded me what I want to do and be as a designer!
For five days I was not going to be who I normally am. For five days I was going to be a child again, looking at everything with new eyes and everything I was seeing was new; the people, the architecture, the signage and graffiti, the roadways and lack of stop signs. When traveling to a foreign place you must relax your regular ways of operating and go with the flow. You are now on Belize time. Our days were filled with lectures, snorkeling, kayaking and of course taking in the sun. I saw some amazing creatures, both underwater and above. My three favorite critters were the hawksbill turtle, the yellow tail damselfish and a tiny little quid that flashed brilliant colors as it darted away from me. I had a great time in Belize and the trip continues to inspire me.
My experience in Belize was amazing! It was my first time snorkeling and it was very enjoyable. I got a chance to see many underwater and land creatures all in one vicinity up close. I also saw and learned about mangroves for the first time. I think they are very unique trees and was fascinated by the aerial roots of the red mangrove. Not only does the tangle of roots provide shelter for animals, but it also supports the ground around the roots. We had a good variety of students in our group. Getting to know everyone and hearing about their experiences was fun. The only thing that I would say that I disliked about the trip was being eaten alive by mosquitoes and other bugs.