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Mimicking Model Behavior

Posted on: Friday, May 12, 2006

What do Ernst Haeckel and Issey Miyake have in common? Oddly, both inhabit the gelatinous intersection between the worlds of art, nature, and organic form. Ernst Haeckel (1834 - 1919) was an eminent German biologist, philosopher, zoologist, comparative anatomist, and popular illustrator. His Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature) depicts an invertebrate world gone glam. (Haeckel also coined the terms "phylum" and "ecology" and was, in his day, a controversial figure regarding his views on evolution). Radiolarians (also known as radiolaria) are amoeboid protozoa that produce intricate mineral skeletons, typically with a central capsule dividing the cell into inner and outer portions, called endoplasm and ectoplasm. They are found as plankton throughout the ocean, and their shells are important fossils found from the Cambrian onwards.

I was recently ensnared by the 'net' similarities between the Haeckel model depicted above and Issey Miyake's spring 2006 fiber experiments showcased in his Madison Avenue shop window a few weeks ago. Miyake is well-known for experimenting with high-tech fibers while attentively paying homage to the intrinsic laws of nature. He has used experimental materials such as nylon monofilament and molded silicone, not to mention his innovative Pleats Please collection that rivals the most efficient of sea creatures. Perhaps Haeckel had a sense about the role that biomimicry would play as a model for our fragile future.

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