Biophilia, Biomorphia, Biomimicry – spot the difference! (2024)

As previously described, biophilia, biomimicry and biomorphia have their roots in nature, so parts of these sciences interact, and some differ.

Biomorphia (1935)

Biomorphia resembles or suggests design elements of naturallyoccurring patterns or shapes in nature and living organisms. The term is derived from the Greek words of ‘Bios’ meaning life or living, and ‘morphe’, meaningform.

Initially, this term was used in the context of modern art and first mentioned in 1935 by the British writer Geoffrey Grigson. Subsequently, it was used during the exhibition of Cubism and Abstract Art in the 1930s. The Biomorphic approach uses nature as a source for unconventional organic forms and relates to some symbolic effects in architecture.

The Lotus Temple in New Delhi displayed above is a Baha’i place of worship and was built in 1986 by Fariborz Sahba and is a well-known example of biomorphism in architecture. Its design is based on a lotus flower shape from nature. It has a symbolic aspect to it - as according to Fariborz Sahba, the Iranian-American architect, the Lotus flower represents: ‘the manifestation of God and is also a symbol of purity and tenderness”.[1]

The structure is arranged in three clusters that form nine sides of the temple and has 27 free-standing marble-clad petal-shaped sections.

Biophilia (1964)

Biophilia, Biomorphia, Biomimicry – spot the difference! (1)

Let us consider the concept of biophilia. First and foremost, it explores how nature or natural elements make us feel and what impacts are the greatest, in terms of physical and psychological wellbeing.

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In an interview with one of the leading experts on biophilia, William D. Browning, in December 2020, the discussion started with the concept of biophilia. When posed with the question: “What does biophilia mean personally for you?” William Browning answered:“Studying biophiliais looking at the human psychological and physiological responseto expanses of nature. Biophilic design is a design that intentionally creates experiences of nature in the built environment.”

In researching the concept of biophilia, more than ten people representing various companies were interviewed. The majority of them were practising architects and designers - and a lot of responses about the concept of biophilia referred to the human experience.

Analysing the literature and interviews on biophilia, one conclusion is that the focus could shift from the outside to the inside. Rather than focusing on external elements (nature forms, shapes, etc.)and then their effects on humans, we should look first at the humans’ responses to the outside elements and then identify which features are the most effective and have the most impact.

Biomimicry (1957)

‘Biomimicry’ is derived from two ancient Greek words ‘, Bios’, meaning life and ‘Mimesis’, which means to imitate.It copies or mimics nature and various aspects and processes and focuses on how things work naturally to solve human problems.

‘Biomimetics’ was a term first used in the 1950s by Otto Schmidt and appeared in the scientific literature in 1962.[2]Its use in design and architecture became more prominent following the 1997 publication of the Janine Benyus book entitled ‘Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by Nature’, in which she developed the concept, emphasising sustainability as an objective for biomimicry.

Biophilia, Biomorphia, Biomimicry – spot the difference! (5)

The photograph above displays the Beijing National Stadium that was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, it is “…an excellent example of the use of bio-metric principles in modern architecture.”[3]The stadium design is based on an upturned birds’ nest and comprised of two structures - the seating is made of concrete whilst the outer steel frame represents twigs from a nest.

The steel structure utilised advanced geometric patterns. The stadium panels were designed to ensure optimal acoustics and receipt of sunlight whilst protecting spectators, again by using the nest insulation aspect to maximum impact and clever use of the twigs in the structure. A clear sightline for spectators was also a key feature of the design.

Biosciences Similarities and Differences

Biomorphism is a formal and aesthetic expression; biomimicry is a functional discipline,” suggestsMichael Pawlin in his book “Biomimicry in Architecture”[2]

Biomimicry studies howfunctions are delivered in biology. Biomorphism looks at nature as an inspiration for unconventional forms. Biophilia concernshow nature or natural elements make us feel, what impacts are the greatest in terms of physical and psychological wellbeing. These are the differences.

All biosciences have the root ‘bio’ from theancient Greek word ‘Bios’, meaning ‘life, or connection with life and living things’ [4]since all the biosciences are looking at nature and the living world and havenatureat its cores.

Biophilia, Biomorphia, Biomimicry – spot the difference! (6)

As described in the previous post, biosciences’ diagram, presented above is illustrating how each area might overlap above and beyond their standing.


[1]Bahai Teaching Organisation,

[2]Pawlin, Michael “Biomimicry in Architecture”, 2011

[3]Architecture Ever,

[4]Cambridge Dictionary,


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Biophilia, Biomorphia, Biomimicry – spot the difference! (2024)


What is the difference between biophilia and biomimicry? ›

So What's the Difference? In a nutshell, biomimicry is the “mimicry,” or more accurately, the emulation of life's engineering. In contrast, biophilia describes humans' connection with nature and biophilic design is replicating experiences of nature in design to reinforce that connection.

What is the difference between biomimicry and biomorphism? ›

Biomorphism refers to designs that visually resemble elements from life (they “look like” nature), whereas biomimetic designs focus on function (they “work like” nature). Biomorphic designs can be very beautiful and beneficial, in part because humans have a natural affinity for nature and natural forms.

What is the difference between biomorphic and biophilic? ›

Biomorphism looks at nature as an inspiration for unconventional forms. Biophilia concerns how nature or natural elements make us feel, what impacts are the greatest in terms of physical and psychological wellbeing. These are the differences.

How could you use biophilia in bio-inspired design? ›

Biophilic design endeavors to forge this connection by leveraging or inserting instances of nature, natural patterns or spatial conditions into the built environment. Biophilic design sounds great to nature-lovers such as myself who crave hiking through natural landscapes or visiting the local aquarium.

What is the difference between bio-inspired and biomimicry? ›

Going beyond what Nature provides usually entails a number of transitions, (1) from biomimicry, which involves solely superficial imitation of the biological systems, (2) to biomimetics, which attempts to copy and recreate the structure- function relations observed in living entities, and finally (3) to bioinspiration, ...

What is the idea of biophilia? ›

The biophilia hypothesis is the belief that humans are genetically predisposed to be attracted to nature. It states that all humans inherently love the natural world. This idea that we are drawn to and need nature was first put forth by a man named Edward O. Wilson in his book, Biophilia, published in 1984.

What is an example of a Biomorphism? ›

Other well known examples of biomorphism in architecture can be found in the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, by Fariborz Sahba, based on a lotus flower, and the TWA Flight Center building in New York City, by Eero Saarinen, inspired by the form of a bird's wing.

What is biomimicry in simple words? ›

Biomimicry (literally: imitation of the living ) aims to take inspiration from natural selection solutions adopted by nature and translate the principles to human engineering. The biomimicry approach aims to favor “choices” tested by nature which had millions of years to understand what works best and what doesn't.

What is the oldest example of biomimicry? ›

What is the first example of biomimicry? The flying machines of Leonardo Da Vinci are the earliest biomimicry example. He very closely observed the anatomy and flight of birds and made numerous notes and detailed sketches of his observations. These sketches of proposed "flying machines"...

What are the disadvantages of biophilic design? ›

If not properly maintained, natural elements can become unsightly or even hazardous. Allergies: For some employees, exposure to natural elements such as plants or flowers can trigger allergies or other health issues. Space limitations: Biophilic design may not be practical for all workspaces.

What is the difference between biophilic design? ›

Summary. Biophilia is the innate connection between human beings and other living things, whereas Biophilic Design is how designers play on this idea and bring natural elements into a space to help make it more attractive and resonant with the senses.

What is the point of biophilic design? ›

Biophilic design fosters positive and sustained interactions and relationships among people and the natural environment. Humans are a deeply social species whose security and productivity depends on positive interactions within a spatial context.

How does biophilic design reduce stress? ›

Ultimately, biophilic design draws on the fundamental connection people have with nature—and often, their instinct to preserve their own well-being. Providing broad visual access and comfortable, protected spaces naturally helps people feel safe and reduces stress.

How is biophilic design sustainable? ›

Biophilic design is essential in sustainable architecture because it promotes energy efficiency, reduces environmental impact, and enhances human well-being by creating healthier living and working environments.

What are bio-inspired methods? ›

Bio inspired optimization problems are usually nonlinear and restricted to multiple nonlinear constraints to tackle the problems of the traditional optimization algorithms, the recent trends tend to apply bio-inspired optimization algorithms which represent a promising approach for solving complex optimization problems ...

What does biomimicry mean? ›

Biomimicry (literally: imitation of the living ) aims to take inspiration from natural selection solutions adopted by nature and translate the principles to human engineering. The biomimicry approach aims to favor “choices” tested by nature which had millions of years to understand what works best and what doesn't.

What is the opposite of biophilia? ›

We like to think of biophilia as finding the joy in nature – 'affiliating with other forms of life' sounds a tad creepy. The opposite, biophobia, is the fear of nature.

What is the correct description of biophilia? ›

Biophilia is humans' inherited psychological tendency to be attracted to other forms of life and the natural environment.

How does biomimicry differ from other biological approaches? ›

Biomimicry is unique among other bio-inspired design approaches in its emphasis on learning from the capacity of living systems to arrive at sustainable solutions to specific functional challenges.

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