Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July's Prairie Flowers as Design Inspiration

Today was a beautiful sunny day for a bike ride through the Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve.  It was hot today.  Very hot.  But the flowers in the prairie were in full bloom, and I was curious about the plants I found there.  What are their names?  Where do they grow and why?  Is there anything we can we learn from them that could influence design?  To try and answer these questions, I took a collection (which doubles as an interesting wildflower arrangement) and have attempted to classify a few of the flowers I picked.  I did a little research on the natural history of each and then have extrapolated a few questions as to how each plant may inspire design.  What questions do you think the plant could help us answer?  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I fell in love with this tree

I went for a walk in the Morton Arboretum today, looking at tree bark. Yes, tree bark. For my biomimicry coursework, I have certain prescribed iSite assignments where I go out and observe nature. One of them included looking at tree bark and the differences between different species. This was on my mind after a conversation I had with Dr. Robert Fahey, a forest ecologist on staff at the Arboretum, about tree bark and its (marginal) insulative values. He spoke about Oak forests and how the rough bark fissures that Oak trees present actually create air pockets that help insulate the tree from fire and extreme cold.  It's cork-like texture also traps air pockets, adding insulation.  He was quick to mention that the cell structure of the live phloem has more to do with a tree surviving cold than the dead bark, but it was an intriguing idea for me and I resolved to contact a plant physiologist soon.  Dr. Fahey spoke about the the chemistry of bark and how some species create chemicals in their bark that protect the tree from predators.