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Ecosystem-based biomimicry as a potential informer of regenerative architecture: a proposed regenerative research centre on the docks of the Durban Bay.

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The context of the 21st century is the epoch of the ‘Anthropocene’ which characterizes the contemporary geological age we have entered – one defined by causative human activity and its decisive influence on planetary systems. This stems from the conceptualisation of human systems to be separate from natural systems leading to a problematic relationship between man and nature. This is manifested through our built environments where processes of urbanization and industrialization continue to pollute and degrade ecosystems both in & beyond their hinterlands. The built environment has been identified as a potential medium for mitigating the causes for ecosystem degradation and the loss of biodiversity – because of its role as a driver of ecosystem degradation, because it is the primary habitat for humans, and because the built environment presents potential opportunities for change. The purpose of this research was to explore regenerative design as a means for the built environment to restore the capacity of ecosystems. The research focussed on ecosystem-based biomimicry as a potential informer for regenerative architecture, so that it may motivate architecture as a vital component in the regeneration of local biodiversity and the wider ecological habitat. The research was primarily focused on the city of Durban and in particular the Durban Bay. The study is of an interdisciplinary nature and gathers insight from experts in their respective fields. The disciplines explored were Architecture, Urban Design and Town planning, Ecology, and Biomimicry. The research findings indicate that there is a need for socio-ecological change in the way we conceive of our built environments, to re-think the problematic relationship between man, the built environment, and the ecologies that they are an intrinsic part of. Regenerative Design begins to alter this relationship, and promotes the positive integration with ecological systems, regenerating ecosystems particularly in human dominated urban contexts. Mimicking ecosystems goes beyond a basic understanding of local ecological systems, but rather critically changes how buildings should function in relation to nature, shifting from a consumer of ecosystems towards a producer of natural resources.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.