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Biophily Thinktank

Fisk is featured panelist in Yale conference



A Texas A&M University architecture professor has been invited to participate in a historic gathering of professionals seeking solutions to humans' prevailing conflict between the modern built environment and the human need for contact with natural systems and processes.

Pliny Fisk, Texas A&M Fellow of Sustainable Urbanism, will attend the May meeting sponsored by Yale University, where he will be a featured panelist discussing "landscape perspectives" and "sustainable design in practice."

"This interdisciplinary conference will bring together 40 scientists and practitioners from biology, neuroscience, psychology and building and landscape architecture, along with developers," Fisk says. "We'll consider issues being addressed by a project recently initiated at Yale with the stated goal of understanding how human dependence on contact with the natural environment can be translated into design principles, incorporating the cycles of nature as functional bridges into our own life support systems. How this information can expand the practice of sustainable or restorative environmental design is one major purpose of the gathering.

"People are highly dependent on contact with natural systems and processes to be physically and mentally functional and whole," he continues. "Despite this need, most of modern society equates human progress with large-scale transformation of the natural environment, and the prevailing development paradigm relies on massive consumption of energy and resources, huge generation of wastes and pollutants and separation and alienation of people from nature."

In contrast to this trend, the notion of biophilic design has emerged, incorporating ideas derived from biologist Edward Wilson's concept of biophily (loving life). Such an approach, which Fisk first introduced to a national architects' meeting in 1989, incorporates knowing what phases of life support each cycle - water, heating/cooling, air, food and materials - and can be linked psychologically into the limits and rhythms of these cycles; documenting the benefits of working and living in biophilically-designed spaces; and developing techniques for integrating biophilic design principles into sustainable design practice.

"The May conference promises to be a seminal gathering to explore the history, science and practice of biophilic building design and development," Fisk says. "I'm looking forward to being a part of it."


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