Designing urban spaces with inspiration from nature


Designing a city that works for everyone in it is no easy feat. Attempts at development often lead to more harm than good, and we have to work harder to undo man-made problems. After ten years as an urban designer, Shannon Royden-Turner didn’t have the answers. So she went back to basics. Royden-Turner began investigating biomimicry, a way of studying nature’s methods and applying it to our lives to find solutions. “I believe in mimicking nature to create inspiring stories for the future,” she says. The core of what she does is innovating by thinking creatively about solutions that have long existed in the natural world.

With a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and a Master’s in Urban Infrastructure Design and Management from the University of Cape Town, Royden-Turner is highly qualified to advise on the creation of sustainable cities. She started her own company in 2011, which is part of the BiomimicrySA network, to liaise with and offer guidance to municipalities, professionals, developers and citizens on how they can structure the way they live to be in harmony with nature. “I think that if we really draw from nature we can truly understand the meaning of sustainability,” Royden-Turner says.

The architect also studied human behavior with Dr John Demartini to assist others in expanding their creativity. “I want to unlock the potential of people to solve these problems,” Royden-Turner says. She has worked on a number of projects that have enabled others to improve their living areas. This includes managing stormwater and land-use issues with the eThekwini Municipality, developing a concept for a sustainable city for the Nigerian presidency, advising the Haitian president on urban renewal opportunities, and working alongside the Western Cape Premier to develop solutions to the clean water crisis in Langrug. “South Africa is headed on a new path in terms of our urban futures,” she says, “and I’m really excited to be a part of that innovation.”