The way we build our buildings in the current times is stupid. We mined valuable resources out of the earth and schlep them on fossil fuel-based ships all over the planet and when they arrive on the site, they have to be put together by hand. Every building is a bespoke prototype. We’ve been doing this for 200 years.

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Taking a building from 1917 and one from 2017 we realize it’s the exact same technology. I would show you one from 1817, but the cameras hadn’t been invented yet. So, you could essentially resurrect a zombie from the Civil War and put him on your construction site and he’d go right to work. That is convenient but we’ve learned so much in the last 200 years, yet not evolved. Not to mention the facts, how buildings are the largest contributors to climate change. Then, how do we fix this? And why now, more than ever before?

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Comparing the construction across a century, Source – ©prostruction.life

But before that, let’s clear out some basic nature-inspired design concepts and models. There’s a thin line between Biomimicry, Biophilic, and Biomorphism. 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. Biomorphism models artistic elements on naturally occurring patterns or shapes reminiscent of nature and living organisms.

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Taken to its extreme, it attempts to force naturally occurring shapes onto functional devices. The approach was born from the idea of the importance of nature and orientation towards the environment. The shape, material, structure, and mechanisms in the universe have been and are continuously evolving from much before the existence of humans. The basic idea formed in architecture design is through a process of collaboration between humans and nature.

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Source – ©elemental.green

This is a living roof. Its nature but on top of dead toxic materials. It is missing the opportunity. In construction, we have to layer things over one another – structure, form, lighting and plumbing. In nature, everything grows together! We can move from the idea of mass production into mass customization; a vast world of exploration and unthinkable possibilities open up for us. So, instead of painting our homes every 3-5 years, the pigment could come from within – inspired by chameleons. You wouldn’t need lighting because the whole surface could glow – inspired by firefly. That’s what’s possible! We are not the first creatures to grow things on this planet. The formation of organisms in nature is open to problems, changes, and transformations in relation to the steps of their lives. Architects interest in natural processes, keeping characteristics as variability, changeability and complexity. This integration model of architectural design and style depends on the form and space. The organisms in nature with their unique characteristics are giving researchers special ideas in problem-solving. The adaptation of this dynamic process which continually renews itself in the living environment should be critical in architects’ thinking models. 

Biomorphism is characterized into 3 categories: 

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1. Vegetal Biomorphism – inspired by plants

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Gardens By The Bay, Singapore Source – ©Thrillophilia.com

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is an iconic landscape project for vertical gardens. Taking inspiration from the form of the orchid, the masterplan is a rich fusion of nature, technology, and environmental management. Stunning architectural structures are combined with a wide variety of horticultural displays, daily light and sound shows, lakes, forests, event spaces and a host of dining and retail offerings.  The whole plan has an intelligent environmental infrastructure, allowing endangered plants, which could not normally grow in Singapore to flourish, providing both leisure and education to the nation. 

2. Anatomical Biomorphism – inspired by human anatomy

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L_Hemisferic, Spain, Source – ©idesignarch.com

Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, L’Hemisfèric, or hemispheric theater, houses a planetarium, laserium, and IMAX theater. Recognized for drawing from the outside world to create his designs, fashioned the building to resemble a human eye — the ‘pupil’ holding the hemispherical dome of the IMAX theatre and the “eyelid” can open and close by using hydraulic lifts to operate the steel and glass shutter. The pool below reflects the elliptical building, creating the full image of the eye. It has also earned the name “The Eye of Knowledge.”

3. Zoomorphic Biomorphism – inspired by the structure of animals

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ITKE research Pavilion, Source – ©dezeen.com

The research team at the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) have taken morphological inspiration from the structure of the sea urchin and the sand dollar, both sea-bed invertebrates, to create what almost bears semblance to a floating beehive, in a team combining architects, engineers, biologists, and palaeontologists.

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We are living in a special and rare time in history; when the confluence of four fields in giving designers access to tools we’ve never had access to before. Computation design – allowing us to design complex forms, additive manufacturing – letting us produce parts by adding material rather than carving out, material engineering – lets us design the behavior of materials in high resolution, and synthetic biology – enabling us to design new biological functioning by editing DNA. We need disruption, a paradigm shift, a transformation. No candle manufacturer invented the light bulb, neither the post office invented email. It’s got to come from outside, it won’t come from within. We need to switch from a paradigm of cut, slash, and burn to grow, regenerate, and breathe, using nature as the ultimate technology.

Living things are not chiseled, they augment. Every sensitive architect or designer often finds themselves in between the chisel and the gene, the machine and the organism, the assembly and the growth.  We constantly push ourselves with the intention of making our building breathe. Isn’t that the first sign of being alive? The next would most definitely be moving away from the assembly, and closer into the growth of the building.

Nature has always been a great mother inspiring the designers’ minds ever since. A new age of design and creation takes us from a nature-inspired design to a design-inspired nature and that demands of us for the first time that we mother nature.

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Author

Tanushree Saluja is constantly inspired by connecting different forms of art and translating into architectural experiences. She strives for the eccentricity that’s interminable in the mind of the receiver. Bringing in fresh perspectives and unique outlook has been the greatest challenge and reward to her creativity.

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