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Architectural Innovation Inspired by Nature

From bricks grown from bacteria to cement derived from the reef building process of coral, biomimicry has taken the world by storm. A collection of products inspired by this phenomenon are showcased in Bloomberg’s article “14 Smart Inventions Inspired by Nature: Biomimicry,” ranging from transportation breakthroughs to ingenious feats of engineering. Read on after the break for two highlighted architectural inventions inspired by the natural world.  

Video: Agence Chartier-Corbasson Talks Organic Skyscrapers


Zaha Hadid's Student Envisions an Antarctic Port For Tourism and Research

Antarctic icebergs morph into a sprawling multi-functional hub for research, transport and accommodation in one of the latest projects to come out of Zaha Hadid's Studio at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Designed by architecture student Sergiu-Radu Pop, the project hypothesizes a point of arrival for the world's final frontier of development. The project employs biomimicry as a primary design tool, replicating the jagged asymmetrical edges of ice formations along the coast of the southern ocean. 

Enter the Transformable Antarctic Research Facility with more photos and info after the break

Courtesy of Sergiu-Radu Pop Courtesy of Sergiu-Radu Pop Courtesy of Sergiu-Radu Pop Courtesy of Sergiu-Radu Pop

Animal Printheads, Biomimicry and More: How Nature Will Shape the Built Environment of the Future

Biomimicry is quickly emerging as one of the next architectural frontiers. New manufacturing processes such as 3D printing, coupled with the drive to make buildings more environmentally sustainable, have led to a wave of projects that are derived from natural phenomena or even constructed with biological materials. A recent example of this trend is “Hy-Fi,” this summer’s MoMA PS1 design that is constructed of organic and compostable eco-bricks. Other projects such as MIT Media Lab’s Silk Pavilion have taken biological innovation a step further by actually using a biometric construction processes - around 6,500 silkworms wove the Silk Pavilion's membrane. “Animal Printheads,” as Geoff Manaugh calls them in his article "Architecture-By-Bee and Other Animal Printheads," have already proven to be a viable part of the manufacturing process in art, and perhaps in the future, the built environment as well. But what happens when humans engineer animals to 3D print other materials?

The Living’s Hy-Fi, winning design of the 2014 Young Architects Program. The Museum of Modern Art and MoMAPS1. Image © The Living MIT Media Lab's Silk Pavilion. Image © Steven Keating Silkworms weaving MIT Media Lab's Silk Pavilion. Image © Steven Keating © John Becker

When Biology Inspires Architecture: An Interview with Doris Kim Sung

Material Minds, presented by ArchDaily Materials, is our new series of short interviews with architects, designers, scientists, and others who use architectural materials in innovative ways. Enjoy!

Before attending Columbia University for her Masters in Architecture, Los Angeles-based architect Doris Kim Sung took a fairly non-traditional approach to becoming an architect: she was a biologist. Naturally then, Sung’s architectural work tends to take inspiration from the biological world, particularly in the way she experiments and innovates with materials. Much of her work involves thermal bimetals, a material that expands and contracts with temperature swings; it can even act as a sun shade and ventilation system, without the need for electricity.

So where does a biologist-turned-architect draw inspiration from? We interviewed Ms. Sung to find out for ourselves -- the responses, like her work at dO|Su Architecture, are simply fascinating.  

Bricks Grown From Bacteria

A unique biotechnology start-up company have developed a method of growing bricks from nothing more than bacteria and naturally abundant materials. Having recently won first place in the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation ChallengebioMason has developed a method of growing materials by employing microorganisms. Arguing that the four traditional building materials - concrete, glass, steel and wood - both contain a significant level of embodied energy and heavily rely on limited natural resources, their answer is in high strength natural biological cements (such as coral) that can be used "without negative impacts to the surrounding environment."

Silk Pavilion / MIT Media Lab

"Our research integrates computational form-finding strategies with biologically inspired fabrication", claims the 'about' page of MIT Media Lab's Mediated Matter Group. Though this may sound like run-of-the-mill architectural boasting, you are unlikely to find any more exemplary combination of scientific research, digital design and biomimetic construction than their recently completed Silk Pavilion.

© Steven Keating © Steven Keating © Markus Kayser Schematics of the human-constructed portion of the pavilion © Jorge Duro-Royo

Vertebrae Staircase / Andrew McConnell

Courtesy of Andrew McConnell
Courtesy of Andrew McConnell

Inspired by the spine of a whale, the Vertebrae Staircase is not simply mimicry of organic form but an exploration in shaping structure. Much of the design work went into refining the single component, or vertebra, that mate with each other creating a unified spine running from floor plate to floor plate. These interlocking vertebrae create a rigid and self-supporting structure. 

More on Andrew McConnell's 'Vertebrae Staircase' after the break.

TEDx: Metal that breathes / Doris Kim Sung

Biology student turn architect, Doris Kim Sung has dedicated her studies to the infinite possibilities of thermobimetals, smart materials that respond dynamically to temperature change. As tested with DO|SU Studio Architecture’s recent installation “Bloom”, whose surface is completely fabricated with thermobimetal, these smart materials are capable of relieving our dependence on energy-inefficient mechanical systems with their self-shading and self-ventilating properties.

Imagine a building skin capable of maintaining thermal comfort in an environmentally responsible and cost effective way by responsively mimicking the characteristics of human skin.

Interview: Michael Pawlyn on Biomimicry

Abalone Shell : Photo by Gilly Walker -
Abalone Shell : Photo by Gilly Walker -

The Economist featured an interview with Michael Pawlyn discussing sustainable architecture inspired by nature. Michael Pawlyn is known for his passionate investigations of the unique, efficient structures of natural organisms and how they may translate through design. Biomimicry has been an important topic amongst the innovators and educators who are learning from the 3.8 billion years invested into the design of our natural world.

The shell of an abalone is “twice as strong as the toughest man-made ceramic.”

Continue reading for the complete interview.