Just how do we tap the Genius of our Place?

Cherry blossoms, University of Washington

I’m lucky enough to spending the week in Seattle this week on vacation, perfect timing this year for the blooming of the cherry trees on the University of Washington campus. Unfortunately I don’t think I will be here in just over a month in May when Seattle will hum with the buzz around the Living Future’s Institute unConference.

Every year the conference includes activities and presentations that involve biomimicry, and this year is no different. Central to the application of biomimicry to the built environment is the idea that each geography faces specific challenges due to differing operating conditions – the amount of sunlight, rain wind, fire, etc. – and thus buildings should be designed and built to optimally deal with their location-specific challenges. What’s built in Chicago should not be the same as what’s built in Seattle. One way to understand how to modify designs is to look at life that’s well-adapted to the specific location – all life that’s native to the place! We call this Genuis of Place.

This year, attendees to the unConference will get a chance to do some deep dives into how a Genius of Place can be applied to design. Participants will have a chance to learn about the newest Genius of Place for the California coast region from Biomimicry 3.8 and HOK, and get to participate in a workshop specific to applying the biomimicry Genius of Place tool to a Living Building Challenge design by my good friends Joe
Zazzera, Jane Toner, Diana Hammer and Peggy Chu. A third place-based workshop specific to Seattle’s very cool Urban Greenprint project will teach participants apply nature’s lesson’s learned about water flow into their own designs here in the northwest. Their impressive SeedKit compiles the lessons learned and is available to any designer.

A list of freely available Genius of Place reports are included on my resources page. If you get to attend, let me know how it goes!

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