The dynamical view of natural form

T. Irwin, S. Baxter

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Design is implicated in most of the social and environmental crises confronting us today. This paper argues that in order for designers working within all areas of specialty to design more sustainably and responsibly, they need to fundamentally change the way in which they think about form. A better understanding of natural form and the way in which it comes into being can inform new ways of conceiving form in the designed world. The work of poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and modern-day physicist and philosopher Henri Bortoft offers new perspectives on the dynamic unity of natural organisms. The emerging field of biomimicry and biomimetics is based upon the study of natural forms anal processes found in nature, but has most often given rise to technology-based solutions that do not reflect an understanding of the unity of the phenomena. Such solutions are not sustainable and fall short of their potential for sweeping change because they have been conceived and applied in a limited context within an outdated design paradigm and a reductionist worldview. This paper reviews Goethe's concept of 'whole' organisms and their temporal, iterative and dynamic nature and shows how a shift in perception of form can inform a new design process in which ethics and sustainability are embedded.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDesign and Nature IV: Comparing Design in Nature with Science and Engineering
    EditorsCA Brebbia
    Place of PublicationSouthampton
    PublisherWIT Press
    Number of pages10
    ISBN (Print)978-1-84564-120-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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