What I Learned about Architecture and Nature

It’s always nice to come back to “home” to Damanhur, especially when I can bring people with me. After months of planning, Michael Pawlyn and Pietro Laureano — two rockstars of the architecture world — came to see the temples of Damanhur and discuss how nature and ancient knowledge can be integrated into the physical design of a building to create sacred space without ideological constraints.

For those of us just outside the architecture world, let me introduce you:

Tigrilla Gardenia with Michael Pawlyn & Pietro Laureano

Michael Pawlyn, Exploration Architecture

Specializing in biomimetic architecture—Biomimicry is the use of nature as a model in the design of products, services, systems—Michael was central to the team that designed the Eden Project in Cornwall, England: two biospheres built into a former kaolinite (china clay) quarry . The structures, the largest in the world, contain more than 100,000 plants and emulate two biomes: the Mediterranean and the Tropical, through a complex system of conditioning and thermal control. Michael has written several books on Biomimicry in architecture, gave a TED talk that has been viewed more than 1.8 million times, and travels extensively to speak and develop new projects. He also works in the desert to bring innovations in the cultivation of food in a sustainable way. In 2007, Pawlyn established the architecture firm Exploration to focus on environmentally sustainable projects that take their inspiration from nature.

Pietro Laureano, IPOGEA Architecture

UNESCO consultant, president of ICOMOS Italy, and expert in the use of ancient knowledge of the peoples for the creation of oasis and structures in the desert, Pietro is a rare breed of architect that merges the past and present to mold the future. Raised in Matera—thanks to him, a UNESCO World Heritage site—he lived eight years in the Sahara and now calls Florence home. He is the founder of IPOGEA, a non-profit organization that foster the full development of local skills and resources to restore and enhance archaeological, historical, environmental and traditional values. Pietro is a central figure in the recognition of Matera as European Capital of Culture for 2019.


Making Contact

Laureano is one of my professors at the University. After the first lesson, where he told us about the Traditional Knowledge World Bank he is creating and the architecture of Matera—known as the Subterranean City, Matera is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, having been inhabited since the 10th millennium BC—I immediately went to him to tell him about Damanhur. All happy, he tells me that five years ago he had invited Damanhur to give a lecture in Matera, because “we can’t give a lecture on underground architecture without Damanhur”. He had been looking to contact us again to invite us to the events that will be held in Matera in 2019!

Pawlyn, on the other hand, is a funny story. When I started reaching out to people who work in biomimicry and architecture and who may be interested in collaborating with Damanhur, I wrote him an email. Four months later, he replied, apologizing because the email was lost in spam! This lead to a fascinating conversation about a journey he took in France to find a legendary theater built to be lit only by the light of the full moon. It was a moving experience about the power of space.

Tell us about the Visit

In three days, they visited our Temples, ate with various nucleo families, and stepped deeper into the architecture of Sacred Space and what it means to create a Temple that is not only for those who created it, but to the peoples of the world. We shared stores about their experiences in the desert, our experiences with shamans, and the ancient knowledge contained by both humanity and nature. Putting all the beautiful things said and done together would be a book in and of itself. This week we opened a door. Now, it is up to all of us, as a working group and as a popolo (people), to step through it and design the room. I am so excited!

Special Thanks

I would like to thank Astore, Coniglio, Piovra for their collaboration and sharing. And special mentions to the Association of the Temples of Humankind, Naiade, Barbagianni, the families of Cornucopia, Sorgente, and Porta del Sole, Esperide, Stambecco, and Rinoceronte for their contributions.

Until next time…

Tigrilla Gardenia

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