Fifth International Conference on Comparing Design in Nature with Science and Engineering


28 - 30 June 2010
Pisa, Italy


Design and Nature CoverThe fifth International Conference on Comparing Design in Nature with Science and Engineering was recently held at the University of Pisa.  The conference was chaired by Professor Angelo Carpi of the University of Pisa and Professor Carlos A Brebbia, Director of the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT).

The meeting was opened by Professor E Giaccherini, Vice-Rector for International Relations at the University of Pisa, who welcomed the delegates in the name of the Rector and the University.  Pisa has always placed great emphasis - Professor Giaccherini said - on research throughout its seven centuries of existence.  The topics discussed during the conference are of great interest to the University, which is doing pioneering work in this area, including the development of advanced polymers which can have important applications in medicine, such as in muscular tissues.  This and other areas of research prompted the University of Pisa to sign a link agreement with the Wessex Institute of Technology, one of the by products of which has been to organise the Design and Nature conference in Pisa.  The University Senate unanimously approved the agreement as a way of promoting interdisciplinary research in areas related to medicine, engineering, and other physical sciences.  It will also promote joint post-graduate programmes between the two institutions.

Professor Giaccherini referred to the importance of the topics discussed during the meeting and the multidisciplinary character of the contributions.

 The late Professor Enzo Tiezzi

Professor Carlos A Brebbia then expressed his regret of having to announce that our friend and colleague Professor Enzo Tiezzi had just died.  He spoke of the towering personality of Enzo in the ecological systems field and his pioneering work following Prigogine's ideas.  Enzo's official title was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Siena, but his interests were wider ranging from poetry to chemistry.  He was - Professor Brebbia said - a true Renaissance man, bringing new ideas and deeper insight to all fields of knowledge.  He was able to discover the essence of different phenomena.  His contributions to evolutionary processes and ecosystems in particular have been enormous.

WIT will sorely miss him because of his interest in many of the Institute's activities.  WIT Press - Professor Brebbia said - is proud of having published scientific books co-authored by Enzo and his researchers, as well as one of his novels, which gives an idea of the breadth of his interests.  He was Co-Editor of many WIT Press books and one of the Editors of the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, which has recently published an outstanding issue on the Nature of Water, which Enzo expressed a special wish to see before his departure.

It will take too long to describe the major works of Enzo and his collaboration with WIT.  It is important however to point out that he was the prime motivator behind the establishment of the Prigogine Gold Medal Award, instituted by the University of Siena and the Wessex Institute of Technology, following the death of Professor Ilya Prigogine in 2003.  This important award has been given every year since 2004 to the best researcher working in the field of ecosystems modelling, particularly those following the work of Prigogine.  Enzo received the award in 2005 at the Aula Magna of the University of Cadiz. He was also a Director and Fellow of the Wessex Institute, who awarded him the Eminent Scientist Medal in 2003.  Enzo received many other awards and recognitions during his career.

Enzo - Professor Brebbia said - had what Spanish speakers call 'Una Buena Muerte' (A good death) which is an idea that conveys not death itself but a sense of closure.  He was aware of the terminal nature of his disease but with tremendous courage, decided not to try to prolong it as usual by treatment or surgery.  He waited patiently to the end surrounded by a loving family and community.  

His life continues in the work of the many researchers that he has guided over his long and prolific career.  It also perdures in his books, papers and other works; a legacy that will live for ever after his departure.

Finally, and equally important - Professor Brebbia said - he was for all the members of our community a good friend in which you could always rely in times of need.

 Opening Addresses

IMG_0341Following this announcement, Professor Brebbia described the work of the Wessex Institute, explaining that it is committed to the dissemination of knowledge in a wide variety of fields.  On the more technical side, WIT has developed and continues to work on advanced computational modelling for engineering and science, based on the Institute flagship, the Boundary Element Method.  WIT continues to develop further applications of this method with special emphasis on supporting engineering applications. He explained that advanced work now continues in cathodic protection systems and fracture mechanics with numerous applications and uses in the oil and aerospace industries.

Professor Angelo Carpi expressed his satisfaction with the Design and Nature conference taking place in Pisa.  As a physician, his intention - he said - was focused on the papers dedicated to biological and medical aspects.  Nevertheless as a researcher it is important for him to position his work in the framework of interdisciplinary views such as those expressed at the conference.  This follows the idea that "Knowledge is a complex process and requires integration of the simple disciplinary discussion within a wider and more complex structure".

Conferences like this - due to the wide range of topics under discussion, require considerable work on the part of the member of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to whom the Editors are indebted.  This help has been essential to ensure the quality of the papers included in the conference book.

 Conference Topics

IMG_0328The conference papers covered a wide range of topics which were grouped into the following sections;

  • Nature and architecture
  • Mechanics in nature
  • Natural materials and processes
  • Solutions from nature
  • Biomimetics
  • Biocapacity
  • Education in design and nature

 Special Sessions

There were additional special sessions as follows;

Biomimetics and Bioinspiration organised by Federico Carpi of the University of Pisa and R Erb of Biokon International, Berlin, Germany.  This session includes a collection of 17 outstanding presentations on this topic.

Professor Adrian Bejan

Constructal Law Seminar
organised by Adrian Bejan of Duke University in USA, consisting of 10 papers on this new theory which is gaining wide acceptance.  These papers, which were presented during the meeting, were originally for a special issue of the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics (Vol 5, Issue 3, 2010) where they are published.

Helical Design in Nature, Engineering and Medicine was organised by Angelo Carpi and referred to the relationship between natural and artificial helical structures.

 Invited Presentations

There was also a series of invited presentations;

'Mathematics and music: the architecture of nature'
by F Morandi, University of Siena, Italy

'The hierarchical structure of seashells optimized to resist mechanical threats'
by D Pasini, McGill University, Canada

'Biomimetics: networking to turn scientific knowledge into beneficial practice'
by R W Erb, Biokon International, Germany

'Electroactive polymer artificial muscles: an overview'
by F Carpi, University of Pisa, Italy

'Biomimetic fibre-reinforced composites inspired by branched plant stems'
by T Messelter, University of Freiberg, Germany

'Analysis of the microfibril organization modes emerging in plant cell walls of variable curvature'

by A D Rey, McGill University, Canada

'Plant movements as concept generators for deployable systems in architecture'
by T Speck, University of Freiberg, Germany

'Few large and many small: Hierarchy in mass movement on earth'
by A J Bejan, Duke University, USA

'Further biomimetic challenges from the bombardier beetle: the intricate chemical production system'

by A McIntosh, University of Leeds, UK

'Biomimetics of sound production, synthesis and recognition'

by G Rosenhouse, Technion Institute of Technology, Israel

 International Scientific Advisory Committee

The International Scientific Advisory Committee members met over dinner to discuss the programme of the meeting and how it could be improved when reconvened in 2012.  There was general agreement that the conference was very successful and that it is important to keep reviewing its contents in order to ensure its continuing relevance.  Several new topics were proposed as well as strategies developed to improve even further the quality of the papers.

 Excursion and Conference Dinner

IMG_0346These were ample opportunities for the delegates to interact during the meeting in addition to the discussion that took place after each presentation.  At the end of the first day the delegates were invited to visit the historical Palazzo where the Comune di Pisa is located.  There they saw two court rooms decorated with beautiful Renaissance frescos.  Professor Angelo Carpi, the co-chairman of the meeting, described the history of the room to the participants.

IMG_0370The Conference Dinner took place in a Franciscan Monastery in a small town near Pisa, where the participants have an occasion to see the beautiful cloisters and well-kept church, before sitting out in the Monks Refectory to partake of a meal prepared and served by community volunteers.  They strive to support the monastery which acts now as a focal point to the life of the town.  Only five old monks remain in the whole building which used to be home for approximately fifty brothers.  The excellent dinner was accompanied by local wines of that part of Tuscany making the event very friendly and enjoyable.

 Publication of Papers

The proceedings of Design and Nature V, 624pp (Print ISBN: 978-1-84564-454-3; Online ISSN: 1743-3509) are available from WIT Press priced at £237/US$474/€332. Orders can be placed online at or by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: +44 (0) 238 029 3223 or fax: +44 (0) 238 029 2853.

Papers from the conference will also be hosted online in the WIT eLibrary as Volume 137 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN: 1743-3509). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at