What is Biomimetic Architecture?

What is Biomimetic Architecture?

The Living, based in New York, in collaboration with Ecovative Design, a company that produces mycelium bricks to replace plastic, built a 13-meter high tower in the courtyard of MoMA. Image © Andrew NunesJean Nouvel and OXO Architects design mixed-use complex inspired by the shape of a mountain. Image via Compagnie de PhalsbourgFrank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax Headquarters features columns that expand as they rise, similar to water lilies floating on the water's surface. Image © Wikipedia. Licensed under Public DomainBeijing National Aquatics Center / PTW Arquitectos. Image © David Gray/Reuters /Landov+ 8

In 1941, Swiss engineer George de Mestral was coming back from a hunting trip with his dog when he noticed that some seeds kept sticking to his clothes and his dog's fur. He observed that they contained several "hooks" that caught on anything with a loop, and from studying this plant, seven years later, he invented the hook and loop fastener, which he named Velcro.

De Mestral's concept of taking inspiration from nature, imitating and replicating the behavior of biological organisms, was popularized by Janine Benyus in her book Biomimicry - Innovation Inspired by Nature (1997), in which the author introduces three aspects that relate creation and human innovation with nature.

Jean Nouvel and OXO Architects design mixed-use complex inspired by the shape of a mountain. Image via Compagnie de Phalsbourg
Jean Nouvel and OXO Architects design mixed-use complex inspired by the shape of a mountain. Image via Compagnie de Phalsbourg

Nature as Model

Biomimicry is a new science that studies nature’s models and then emulates these forms, processes, systems, and strategies to solve human problems – sustainably.

Nature as Measure

Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the sustainability of our innovations. After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned what works and what lasts.

Nature as Mentor

Biomimicry is a new way of viewing and valuing nature.

The Living, based in New York, in collaboration with Ecovative Design, a company that produces mycelium bricks to replace plastic, built a 13-meter high tower in the courtyard of MoMA. Image © Andrew Nunes
The Living, based in New York, in collaboration with Ecovative Design, a company that produces mycelium bricks to replace plastic, built a 13-meter high tower in the courtyard of MoMA. Image © Andrew Nunes

Biomimetic architecture is a multi-disciplinary scientific approach to sustainable design that goes beyond using nature as inspiration for aesthetics but rather deeply studying and applying construction principles that are found in natural environments and species.

Although it has become more popular in recent years and is considered a contemporary trend, architect Michael Pawlyn states in his article How biomimicry can be applied to architecture, published in the Financial Times, that early examples of biomimetic architecture are found in the work of the Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi who, after studying the strength of eggshells, designed a thinner, lighter dome for his cathedral in Florence, completed in 1436.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence. Image © James Taylor-Foster
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence. Image © James Taylor-Foster

Pawlyn also mentions a more recent example, which is the Eastgate Centre, a shopping mall and office block in Harare, Zimbabwe. Its design was inspired by termite mounds and their biological system of temperature control in extreme environments, thereby avoiding air-conditioners.

Eastgate Centre / Mick Pearce. Image © David Brazier
Eastgate Centre / Mick Pearce. Image © David Brazier

This "biomimetic revolution" is now considered to be a major guideline towards more sustainable built environments, meaning that buildings are focused on learning from nature rather than only extracting elements from it.

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Cite: Ghisleni, Camilla. "What is Biomimetic Architecture?" [O que é arquitetura biomimética?] 31 Dec 2020. ArchDaily. (Trans. Duduch, Tarsila) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/954004/what-is-biomimetic-architecture> ISSN 0719-8884

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