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