By Sarah Jane
As obsessions go, I have my share. Like most women, I can lose all common sense when presented with a great pair of boots (past: Naya Quail) or the perfect fragrance (currently: Tokyo Milk 02 Le Petit), but I also have some unlikely and unique interests that may raise an eyebrow to the uninitiated. The most recent of which is a tiny little obsession with diatoms.
Diatoms are beautifully complex geometrically shaped organisms that are, as life forms go, amazingly simple – single celled algae. Their outer shell is a glass like material formed by silica. I first became enamored with these wonderfully graphic cells at an exhibit at the Cranbrook Institute of Science several summers ago. The exhibition contained a display featuring fresh water diatoms from pond scum (beauty from such an unlikely place). As I scanned through the over-sized images in the display, I was struck repeatedly by the mathematical precision with which nature has put these tiny organisms together in beautify symmetry – over and over again in seemingly limitless patterns and “styles”.
As it turns out, these are not just good looking one celled organisms, they have a potential purpose much larger than feeding the lowest level of the marine food chain. A New York Times article from July of this year acknowledged that diatoms can assist with climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Diatoms sequester carbon naturally and at the end of their life they simply sink to the bottom of the water bed, taking their sequestered carbon with them. While this would not alleviate our current climate headache, it could be a huge advantage when coupled with other strategies to lower carbon output.
We have so much to learn from nature. If we look closely and really pay attention, we will see that nature has answers to questions we do not yet know we need to ask! I have a keen interest in biomimicry and the shapes and forms of nature and as a designer I turn to nature often for design solutions. Nature has provided me with some obvious (and not so obvious) answers to tough design problems. I am always in awe of the elegant and beautiful way that nature solves problems – in a system (or cycle) and with no waste.