Nature-inspired design: Biomimicry in architecture (2024)

Nature has had an enormous impact and source of inspiration to several scholars, researchers, scientists, students, and individuals for generations. Nature is a source of inspiration for several ideologies and theories. Nature itself has an adaptation and coping process, which one can learn and inspire themselves. Architecture as an industry often takes inspiration from nature, whether for forms, façade design, or even the functioning of an entire structure. The fascination an individual has towards nature often mimics their inspiration from it.

What is Biomimicry Architecture?

Biomimicry is derived from the Greek word; Bio means life and mimicry means to imitate. Biomimicry Architecture; is often referred to as a unique and technical approach to mimicking nature in creating various designs in architecture. The structure inspired by nature can be strong yet sustainable since nature is a long-lasting system. The buildings are designed to mimic the functions of nature. The design is limitless since nature has no bounds, and design inspired by nature also has no bounds.

Biomimicry can shape our structure in several ways; Functioning like nature, Appearance like nature, and Utilizing nature as elements. Architecture is a path toward sensitive and nature-inspired architecture. The architecture inspired by nature creates more sustainable built environments in the process we are learning from nature and how it functions.

Categories of Biomimicry Architecture

a. Organism Level – The structure’s form and façade are directly inspired by nature.
b. Behaviour Level – The structure’s design is inspired by the working or functioning of nature and its elements.
c. Ecosystem Level – The structure inspired by creating a self-sufficient and sustainable structure and environment, taking inspiration from nature and its working.

Some of the best examples of Biomimicry Architecture

Esplanade Theatre, Singapore

Project: Public – Arts center (Singapore arts center, now referred to as Esplanade theatre)
Design: DP architects and in partnership with Michael Wilford
Construction: Completed in 2002
Design mimicking: Durian (a fruit) – Hard exterior

A fruit (Durian – The hard thorn exterior) inspired theatre façade, designed by DP Architects and Michael Wilford. It is a 60,000 square meter area performing arts center located in Marina Bay. It consists of a shopping mall, theatre, library, and concert hall. This façade structure is an environment-responsive element that provides shading and adjusts according to the sun’s angle. The responsive system uses small aluminum sun shading covering the glass case over the theatre. The sunshade system facade provides natural light and shading during harsh lighting.

National Aquatics Center (The Watercube), Beijing

Project: Aquatics center – Public
Design: Architecture firm – PTW Architects
Construction: Completed in 2008
Design mimicking: Water Bubbles

The Watercube is a structure completed in the year 2008 for the Beijing Olympics aquatics center. The architecture was inspired by the concept of bubbles. The square shape of the center represents the Chinese representation of the Earth. The Blue bubble exterior encloses five swimming pools, wave machines, rides, a restaurant, and seating facilities for 17,000 spectators. The exterior façade is composed of ETFE (ethyl tetra fluoro ethylene) a tough, lightweight, and highly sustainable translucent bubble cladding. The structure also mimics a greenhouse since it allows a good amount of sunlight into the center and passively heats the interiors and the pool.

Gherkin, London

Project: Office structure
Design: Architect: Norman Foster
Construction: Completed in 2003 and opened in 2004
Design mimicking: Venus Flower Basket Sponge – The flower structure

The Gherkin is an iconic skyscraper designed by Norman Foster. The form of the structure is designed to mimic the shape and lattice structure of the Venus Flower Basket Sponge. The structural system of the Gherkin was connected at different angles due to its form. The form of the skyscraper was designed to imitate the flower, the exoskeleton of the flower is the strength with hollow interiors that help filter water and nutrients. Similarly, the design consists of the form that holds the structural system, with an open floor plan with no column interiors, resistance to wind, and ventilation on all floors. Gaps designed on each floor help to facilitate natural ventilation throughout the structure.

Beijing National Stadium (Birds Nest), China

Project: National Stadium – Public
Design: Architecture firm – Herzog & Pierre de Meuron
Construction: Completed in 2008
Design mimicking: Old Chinese art (Woven lines round vessel)- Also resembles a Birds nest

Birds nest, a national stadium was designed and constructed for the World Olympics to accommodate the massive strength of visitors attending, held in Beijing in 2008. In 2001, an announcement was made regarding the Olympics, in 2003 the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & Pierre de Meuron won the best design competition. The design was flexible to accommodate different events in the future. The form of the structure was born out of old Chinese art, woven lines around a circular vessel. The structure also resembles a Birds nest, hence referred to as “The Birds Nest.”

Eastgate Centre, Zimbabwe

Project: Mixed use – Shopping mall and Office
Design: Mick Pearce in collaboration with Arup engineers
Construction: Completed in 1996
Design mimicking: Termites Mound – Natural cooling system

This retail-office complex utilizes a sophisticated natural cooling design for the entire structure. The center consists of 26,000 square meters of office space and 5600 square meters of retail space. The complex designed by Mick Pearce in collaboration with Arup engineers is designed away from the familiar steel and glass façade design. The concept is inspired by the natural cooling system of termites mound. The natural cooling system in which; air enters the building at a lower level and exists through the chimneys. The design is mixed with old and modern design utilization; traditional stone structure with modern brick and glass material.

Eden Project: The Biomes, England

Project: Green house
Design: Architecture firm – Grimshaw architects
Construction: Completed in 2001
Design mimicking: Soap bubbles – Form

The Eden Project located in England is the world’s largest greenhouse project. The Biome design concentration on sustainability and efficiency aspects. The enormous span dome modulus is based on the concept of soap bubbles. The hexagon and polygon forms were made of ETFE (Ethyl tetrafluoroethylene) and steel modules. The efficient and durable modules were derived from studying carbon molecules, pollen grains, and radiolaria. The steel tube with joints composed of geometric shapes is efficient, lightweight, sustainable, and easy to handle modules. The project utilizes sustainable and environmentally efficient materials.

Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin (United States)

Project: Museum – Public
Design: Santiago Calatrava (Quadracci Pavilion in 2001)
Construction: Each separate building was designed by several architects from 1950 – 2001
Design mimicking: Bird wings (Or ship wing) – Wing mechanism

The Milwaukee art museum (MAM) designed by Santiago Calatrava (The Quadracci Pavilion) was completed in 2001. The dynamic feature of the museum, designed by the Architect is the Quadracci pavilion. The pavilion consists of a kinetic feature called Burke Brise Soleil; a form derived from a Birds wing. The Brise Soleil (Sunscreen) is a movable feature with a 217-foot (66 meters) span. It resembles the wings of a bird, due to its kinetic open and close feature.

Algae House (BIQ House), Hamburg

Project: Residential
Design: International design form Arup + Germanys SSC Strategic Science Consultants + Austria-based Splitterwerk Architects
Construction: Completed 2013
Design mimicking: Nature utilized Biomimicry – Algae used for fuel generation

The world’s first algae-powered building located in Germany is the future for self-sustainable green buildings. This residence uses freshwater algae in its windows. The BIQ house utilizes freshwater algae for “Bioreactors”, the bioreactors help produce biomass that can be harvested to produce Biogas. Bioreactors; utilize algae that grow under sunlight to produce Biomass in turn Biogas and energy. The green façade is not only a source of energy but also provides shade to the entire structure.BIQ house is an innovative, environmentally friendly, and efficient way to produce energy.

Nature-inspired design: Biomimicry in architecture (2024)


What is biomimicry architecture inspired by nature? ›

Biomimicry Architecture; is often referred to as a unique and technical approach to mimicking nature in creating various designs in architecture. The structure inspired by nature can be strong yet sustainable since nature is a long-lasting system. The buildings are designed to mimic the functions of nature.

What is biomimicry answers? ›

Biomimicry is a practice that learns from and mimics the strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges—and find hope.

How is architecture inspired by nature? ›

One of the most significant ways that nature has influenced architecture is through the use of natural materials. For centuries, architects have used materials such as stone, wood, and clay to create buildings that are in harmony with their natural surroundings.

How effective is biomimicry? ›

For example, in the context of the built environment, biomimetic designs have led to reductions in embodied energy of construction materials, improvements in energy and structural efficiency as well as in material use and maintenance [1,20].

How does nature inspired design? ›

In its essence, Nature inspired design is about applying what we've learned about Nature to the things we design. By observing Nature, we can learn a lot about how to build better products for transportation, energy production, architecture, agriculture, and more.

What is the main idea of biomimicry? ›

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 best example of biomimicry? ›

Perhaps the most famous example of biomimicry is Velcro. In 1941, engineer George de Mestral was walking his dog when he noticed burrs (like the ones pictured below) sticking to both of them. When he studied the burrs under magnification he found their clinging property was the result of hundreds of tiny hooks.

What are some interesting facts about biomimicry? ›

By mimicking animals, people soon developed things like furry wraps, snowshoes, and camouflage clothing. In fact, over the years animal adaptations have given humans many good ideas about surviving in different habitats. Watching rain run off like a duck's feathers inspired the invention of water-resistant raincoats.

What are the three types of biomimicry? ›

According to Zhang, biomimicry can be achieved at different levels, including, (1) imitating the form or function of nature, (2) imitating natural processes and (3) imitating natural systems; where the first is seen as the most common approach.

What is nature inspired architecture called? ›

The term Biomimetic architecture refers to the study and application of construction principles which are found in natural environments and species, and are translated into the design of sustainable solutions for architecture.

What architecture is inspired by natural elements? ›

Biomimicry, or biomimetic, in architecture, involves mimicking or imitating the solutions, systems, and patterns found in nature to create different designs. Biomimicry can shape structures in various ways, including: Using nature as elements.

Why is nature important in architecture and designing? ›

Nature has an endless palette to call on for inspiration, a library of textures, patterns, and motifs. Nature informs the moods of interior spaces; their qualities of light, their warmth, their tactility and their familiarity to human hands.”

How does biomimicry help architecture? ›

Biomimicry in Building Structures. Biomimicry can be used to inspire new forms, processes, or systems. While biomimicry can impact the entire form and look of a building, it may also impact the layout of the mechanical systems, landscaping, structure, or façade.

What problems has biomimicry solved? ›

Biomimicry has inspired some truly remarkable innovations in design, from efficient energy systems to self-cleaning surfaces. Here are some examples: Velcro: Invented by Swiss engineer George de Mestral in the 1940s, Velcro was inspired by how burrs stick to clothing.

What is the power of biomimicry? ›

Biomimicry encompasses a wide range of applications, from creating innovative materials and structures to optimizing energy systems and enhancing resource efficiency.

What is architecture inspired by nature called? ›

The term Biomimetic architecture refers to the study and application of construction principles which are found in natural environments and species, and are translated into the design of sustainable solutions for architecture.

What is it called when a design is inspired by nature? ›

Biomimetic architecture uses nature as a model, measure and mentor for providing architectural solutions across scales, which are inspired by natural organisms that have solved similar problems in nature.

What is biomimicry innovation inspired by nature summary? ›

Biomimicry is rapidly transforming life on earth. Biomimics study nature's most successful ideas over the past 3.5 million years, and adapt them for human use. The results are revolutionizing how materials are invented and how we compute, heal ourselves, repair the environment, and feed the world.

What is a design that takes inspiration from nature? ›

Biomimicry is using nature to inspire and improve designs for materials, devices, structures, and processes. The word comes from the Ancient Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate, so it literally means 'imitating life'.

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