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Biomimicry: Architecture Inspired By Nature

Image Credit: © Holgs | Dreamstime

NATURE AS INSPIRATION

By taking a look around, designers can find inspiration everywhere – particularly in nature. Nature provides us with an amazing array of solutions for many complex problems that we face today – the quest to learn from nature in this way is “biomimicry”, and architecture can benefit from this kind of approach.

At times what may seem as “simple” in nature can translate to better design solutions that are more efficient, sustainable and healthy. Yes, nature is inspirational but it is also a part of our world which we can study more deeply – extracting creative solutions that we can apply today.

WHAT IS BIOMIMICRY?

Most all designers will benefit from studying certain aspects of nature. As buildings now face a whole myriad of problems that need solutions, it may be in nature that architects can find some answers. Here is what Brett Hoverstott who wrote “What Can Architecture Learn from Nature” has to say…

“Life has had millions of years to finely-tune mechanisms and structures (such as photosynthesis, or spider’s silk) that work better than current technologies, require less energy and produce no life-unfriendly waste. The emulation of this technology is the goal of biomimicry, the art of innovation inspired by nature.” (1)

Already, there exist certain biomimetic buildings. Take for instance, the Eastgate Centre which is a shopping centre and office block. This building was “designed to be ventilated and cooled by entirely natural means, it was probably the first building in the world to use natural cooling to this level of sophistication”. (2) The design inspiration for this architecture was the “indigenous Zimbabwean masonry and the self-cooling mounds of African termites”. (3)

SO, WHAT CAN WE LEARN?

Nature can teach us about systems, materials, processes, structures and aesthetics (just to name a few). By delving more deeply into how nature solves problems that we experience today, we can extract timely solutions and find new directions for our built environments.

As architects, we can benefit from biomimicry to make buildings better by pushing for more natural, integrated, efficient and healthy solutions. We also need to take a look at the role aesthetics plays in nature – with the way function and form so synergistically merge. Perhaps this is a way for buildings to harmonize with nature in renewed ways – making built environments more environmentally sound and healthy for occupants.

References:

(1) Holverstott, Brett. What Can Architecture Learn From NatureGreenBizSite. September 7, 2008.

(2) Wikipedia Eastgate Centre, Harare.

(3) Doan, Abigail. Green Building in Zimbabwe Modeled After Termite MoundsInhabitat. December 10, 2007.

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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