Design and Nature 2012

6th International Conference on Relating Design in Nature with Science and Engineering


11 - 13 June 2012
A Coruña, Spain

 Overview and Opening Address


The sixth International Conference on Relating Design in Nature with Science and Engineering (Design and Nature 2012) took place in A Coruña, Spain, organised by the Wessex Institute of Technology, represented by Professor Carlos A Brebbia, and the University of A Coruña, represented by Professor Santiago Hernandez.  The meeting was sponsored by the WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment and supported by the International Journal of Design and Nature and Ecodynamics.  This very successful series of meetings started in Udine in 2002, followed by Rhodes (2004); the New Forest (2006); the Algarve (2008) and Pisa (2010).

The Design and Nature conference attracts researchers from around the world, working in a variety of studies including nature and its significance for modern scientific thought and design.  The success of the series is in great part due to the interdisciplinary character of the conference which brings together a wide variety of specialists such as physical scientists, engineers, biologists, medical experts as well as those involved in some aspects of humanities and arts.

The conference prompted the launching of the International Journal of Design and Nature, which acts as a focus for a wide variety of studies. It also gave rise to a book series on the same topic which has already produced important volumes including some on Comparing Design in Nature with Science and Engineering; Repair and Redesign of Physiological Systems; Design and Information in Biology; Flow Phenomena in Nature; Compliant Structures in Nature and Engineering; and Optimisation Mechanics in Nature.  Papers from all past conferences have been archived in the WIT Library where they are permanently available to the international scientific community.

Prof. Brebbia
The meeting was opened by Professor Carlos A Brebbia who referred to the importance of the conference series for the work of the Institute, which is the dissemination of knowledge across the world.  Wessex Institute, in addition to conferences, undertakes advanced research for industry and has academic programmes leading to PhD degrees.  Associated activities are an Industrial Research Division which has developed major computer software tools used in aerospace engineering amongst others.

WIT Press publishers of the conference book – Carlos explained – is the academic publishing arm of the Wessex Institute.  In addition to conference books it provides other volumes.  Its current output is 50 books per year to increase significantly in the next three years.  WIT Press welcomes proposals for new books from the community and offers a more proactive service than other publishers.

Carlos mentioned that all WIT activities – with the exception of those carried out at its Boston office – take place at the Wessex Institute Campus in the New Forest National Park, UK.  The Institute offers attractive residential as well as office accommodation, and a series of buildings dedicated to meetings and lectures.  The most recent addition is a swimming pool gymnasium complex which will help to enhance life on Campus.  This is indicative – Carlos said – of the aims of Wessex Institute, ie to continually develop a better quality environment conducive to advanced research activities.

 Keynote Addresses

Prof. Hernandez

There were a series of keynote addresses given by well know scientists in the Design and Nature field:

‘The essence of noise in nature with reference to acoustics’
by G Rosenhouse,
Swantech, Israel

‘A bio-inspired condylar knee joint for leg amputees and for knee implants’
by S C Burgess, Bristol University, UK

‘Laser biomimetic nanofabrication’
by H-B Sun, Jilin University, China

‘Modelling considerations in finite element analyses of ankle foot orthoses;
by S Syngellakis, Wessex Institute of Technology, UK

‘Nature inspired design in Structural Engineering’
by S Hernandez, University of A Coruña, Spain

 Conference Sessions

DN_1Papers presented at the meeting were grouped in the following sessions:

  • Mechanics in nature
  • Nature and architecture
  • Biomimetics
  • Biological studies
  • Solutions from nature
  • Water issues



A guided excursion took place during the conference to show the delegates some of the main sites in A Coruña, which is a very ancient and beautiful city.

A new promenade has been built along the water front extending the length of the city and linking its main attractions, which include beaches, restaurants and shopping areas.  The nineteenth century centre is noted for its glazed balconies (called Galerias) on the front of most buildings.  They were built to allow the residents to enjoy the Atlantic views all year around while protecting them from the wind and rain.

The landmark of the City is the 2000 year old tower of Hercules, the oldest lighthouse in existence, dating from Roman times.  Close by a sculpture park exhibits a number of open air artworks.  The recently landscaped areas of Monte San Pedro and Bens offer numerous walks.

The old centre of town has some unique buildings and beautiful churches, some of them in the Romanesque style.  A Coruña was an important military and naval base and has a substantial amount of defence heritage, which has now been renovated.  The city is famous in modern history for being the place where the British forces defeated by Napoleon fought the last battle before their evacuation.  The Commander, General John Moore, was killed during the ensuing battle and his remains buried under a monument in a park in the old city where an annual remembrance ceremony dear to the local population as well as to the visiting British contingent.


Delgates on excursion

One of the well-known attractions in the old city is the Castle of San Anton, set on a rock islet on the sea and connected to the mainland by a causeway.  The old fort contains now an important archaeological museum which displays amongst other exhibits, the world famous treasury of Elvina, a throne of Celtic art and jewellery found when the building of the new University Campus was started.

The city contains many museums and sites of interest which were detailed by the guide during the tour.

 Conference Dinners

ISAC Dinner
The International Scientific Advisory Committee met over dinner to discuss the conference and how it could be improved when it is reconvened in 2014.  The feeling is that the meeting is very successful in terms of the standard of the presentations and the numerous discussions taking place in a friendly atmosphere.  Some new topics were proposed in order to widen the scope of the proceedings and the preparation of a special issue for the Design and Nature Journal was put forward.  Another topic of discussion was where to hold the 2014 meeting; several possible locations were proposed which will be investigated by the Conference Division of the Wessex Institute.

The Conference dinner took place in A Coruña landmark, ie the Museum of Mankind restaurant, which is renowned for its excellent cuisine as well as the panoramic view of the bay.  The Museum is of an interactive type where the exhibits are arranged to illustrate basic scientific principles. The building itself was designed by a famous Japanese architect and has been set in a granite slope, using that material as well as slates.  It has become one of the highlights of A Coruña.  The menu consisted of a series of local specialities to start, followed by roasted lamb, all accompanied by excellent local wines.

 Closing of the Conference

The conference was closed by Professor Stavros Syngellakis, Head of the Damage Mechanics Division of the Wessex Institute, who thanked the delegates for having attended the meeting. He also mentioned that it was the intention of Carlos to edit a special issue of the International Journal of Design and Nature with the extended version of the papers presented at the Conference. He hopes the authors will be able to collaborate in this initiative.

The success of the Conference will lead to its being reconvened in 2014 in a place and at a time to be agreed.

 Conference Proceedings

The proceedings of Design and Nature, 332pp (Print ISBN:978-1-84564-592-2; eISBN: 978-1-84564-593-9) are available from WIT Press. Orders can be placed on the WIT Press web site 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 at the WIT eLibrary as Volume 160 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment ISSN: 1746-448X, Digital ISSN 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at