On Saturday I moderated one of two AIA/LA-sponsored panels about bio-inspired design at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The first panel looked at the general influence of nature on design, from the Mars Rover to the San Diego Zoo, and ours zeroed in on architecture's envelopes and skins, with insights about breaking away from the static, heavy, and largely-unresponsive architecture of today by architect Tom Wiscombe, Arup engineer Russell Fortmeyer, and evolutionary biologist Shauna Price. Speaking of bio-inspired design, before the panel I got an early look at the new gardens at the Natural History Museum, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates. The gardens, which are scheduled to open in time for the museum's centennial this June, are designed to finally bring the institution's exhibits outside of their built home, with diverse elements that are laid out as a microcosm of LA's ecosystems. That includes plant species that draw all types of animals and insects, jagged rock formations, and even a recreation of the local water system, with a pond that flows into a stream, and eventually becomes an arroyo. The design creatively mixes natural and urban materials like a chain link vine arbor and rebar rose supports. There's even an on-site natural laboratory, so scientists can work in open daylight instead of in a sequestered chamber.We'll be looking at the gardens more closely in the coming weeks when they officially open, along with the glassy new entry to the museum by CO Architects, which is coming this summer.