Biomimicry’s neglected step-child: Geo-Mimicry

It has been said that architecture has a mimicry complex. Dave Brown, on his blog URB, describes architects’ tendency to mimic not only forms and systems found outside of architecture, but also, well, each other. In search of sustainable methods, innovative ideas, and novel forms, many architects look to nature for inspiration. This practice, termed biomimicry, has been the subject of several of my recent posts. Moving beyond biology to something much larger, Brown discusses another environmentally-motivated imitative trend: Geo-Mimicry.

Geo-mimetic architecture is, depending on who you ask, either 1] design that draws inspiration from long-term geological processes or 2] buildings that look like geological forms, i.e. mountains. No, seriously. I swear, I am not making this up. If you keep reading, I’ll even give you an example.

China Hills by MVRDV

The exhibition called “Green Projects II, Three Dimensional City: Future China” offers innovative visions for future urban ecologies and addresses the global depletion of land as a resource. The show, which opened at the Beijing Center for the Arts last November, features the work of the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV.

A focal point of the exhibition is a scale model of the MVRDV project called “China Hills: A dream for future cities.” The basic idea is this: a master plan for a new type of urban landscape that combines city development with agriculture and energy production. The installation features a site of 1x1x.5 km, covered with a number of large terraced forms . The interiors of these “stepped terraced towers” are destined for “retail, industrial, leisure, and technology” while the exteriors are imagined to be planted with various food and energy-related crops. Thus, the idea is a part-urban-part-industrial-part-rural, productive “green” landscape. A description on the exhibition website reads as follows: “By inserting these new ‘hills’ in and around the current cities, a sincere Chinese mountain range appears. Blending individuality with collective responsibilities, connecting architecture with urbanism and turning urbanism into landscape architecture.”

There are, obviously, a number of details that haven’t been quite worked out yet, and personally, I think the jury’s still out on buildings-that-look-like-mountains. However MRVDV’s proposal certainly offers a different way to think about how future urban sustainable development might be designed with a more balanced range of priorities.

This post draws on the work of blogger Dave Brown, who writes about architecture and urbanism from the vantage point of Beijing, China.