Bioengineering achievements fascinate me. A few years ago, scientists at Harvard and Caltech successfully created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. Genetically it was still a rat, but morphologically and functionally, a jellyfish. As technology advances, we are able to mimic natures and create new ones in terms of… Read more »
Bioengineering achievements fascinate me. A few years ago, scientists at Harvard and Caltech successfully created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. Genetically it was still a rat, but morphologically and functionally, a jellyfish. As technology advances, we are able to mimic natures and create new ones in terms of forms and processes. More important than showing off our intellectual advancement, however, is the belief that we can make our lives better, even if it’s sometimes risky. That valuable “jellyfish” is a study model for a muscular pump for medical purposes rather than simply an experiment in the name of creativity.
So what is the implication here for the field of landscape architecture? We define ourselves as form makers (which is probably one of the coolest things I can think of). What’s even cooler is that we understand the drivers of certain forms and are usually good at predicting consequences. All the knowledge with which we prepare ourselves is targeted toward creating something wonderful and beneficial. This makes perfect sense to me, with one exception: as long as we practice we are bound to have an end product. Are those products sustainable beyond the foreseeable future, especially when everything keeps evolving faster and faster? Consider that we may want to begin thinking of our work as a series of prototypes that carry the expectation of improvements, rather than ends in themselves.
It can be very liberating to change our perspective on our work: We are developing prototypes for the future, and channeling our knowledge about that future into the best scenarios we can imagine. It is exciting to see these prototypes getting deployed and to watch how they evolve, are adapted, or even get destroyed, which is a realistic aspect of our new philosophy. If we acknowledge that everything is no longer based on a fixed principle, as a collective group we should be able to take more risks and be more aggressive, and in cleverer ways. Perhaps we should define ourselves as experimentalists. Although we are good at predicting outcomes based on existing conditions, it gets much harder when we don’t even know what those conditions might be. Admittedly, our visions are somewhat limited by that lack of knowledge.
Accepting these facts, I propose that the products we create now be carriers of different possibilities, even as they promote our preferences and are sometimes limited to their contexts. Like the “jellyfish,” the response they get from our users is what makes the future better.
So stay bodacious.
Originally from Hefei, China, Haoyang has been working in SWA’s Laguna Beach Office for over a year. He holds a master of landscape architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor of landscape architecture from Nanjing Agricultural University.
Image of engineered cardiac muscle courtesy of the California Institute of Technology.