Mick Pearce: The potential for Africa is huge

In an interview at AZA Architecture Conference 2013 Mick Pearce explains his design process of biomimicry.
Posted 3 Dec 13 By Design Indaba Duration: 00:05:53 Architecture & Interiors Interviews / Video Interviews Comments

Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce is renowned for designing low-maintenance buildings with low capital and running costs, using renewable energy systems of environment control. He is constantly developing and refining ways of making buildings that are suited to their natural environment and the people who use them. At the 2013 AZA Architecture Conference, he offers insight into his approach to various buildings he has designed in South Africa and China.

The buildings I do are a strange concoction of biomimicry, which is the process of copying nature, says Pearce.

Pearce’s design process begins with a study of the microclimate of the site where the building will be built. He studies what happens during different seasons with a strong focus on wind and sun patterns in order to construct a building that is site-specific. 

For me, form doesn’t follow function; form follows process, says Pearce.

The Eastgate Centre, an office and shopping complex in Harare, is a case in point. “Eastgate is based on a primitive and simplistic idea,” he says. For the design of this building he studied the way in which termites build and regulate the temperature in their mounds. He employed a similar system of circulating air through a series of vents and chimneys in order to heat or cool the building instead of installing conventional air conditioning. 

Pearce further tells us about a building he designed in Knysna titled “Tree” that mimics the structural form of a tree and how it bridges the gap between the water table and the sky.

His work in China saw him designing an office block made from discarded shipping containers. The building is not only environmentally friendly but also addresses the issue of recycling millions of unwanted and discarded containers in the country. 

In conclusion he reflected on Africa's urbanisation: "People build their own cities. Africa is developing quickly and while it might look chaotic the potential for Africa is huge."