Alvar Aalto said, “form must have a content, and that content must be linked with nature”. Biodesign not only links the design to nature, but it is the active act of using living organisms such as plants, fungi, bacteria etc and applying this to achieve better ecological performance. 

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This field of study embraces living organisms within all the stages of design and their uses that help enhance the practical aspects of the design. Tijen Roshko makes it evident that ‘natural systems develop through evolution’. (Roshko, 2010) As we approach an architecture which is aided through computer designs, how is biodesign significant? 

Nature as a Precedent 

Similar to many designs both in the built environment and in our daily lives, they are inspired by nature and are used as a precedent for form-finding. The rise of creating projects with forms inspired by nature has become common, but design with the complexity of the natural structures found in nature could only happen once the technology caught up. 

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The Shi Ling Bridge was inspired by the optimised curvilinear geometry which locks in rigorousness with corrugation. By including perforations, the design can be lighter which reduces the amount of material used to create the design thus also its carbon footprint is reduced. The result is a bridge that does not look rigid and blends into the natural environment well. Moreover, the form of the bridge is natural with inclinations as well as turns.

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The Shi Ling Bridge with perforations throughout the design. _©tonkinliu.co.uk

This is achieved in a similar fashion in the project LifeObject which sets out to make evident the correlation as well as the relationship between the natural elements and future elements of design. This project specifically used a bird’s nest, which is made out of both weak and light materials and has no additional joining mechanisms. The form is highly irregular, creating its shape in the process of construction. 

Comparable to the Shi Ling Bridge, it could only be developed through an experimental process of scientific analysis, coding, and material research. The design follows characteristics from nature including ‘self-organisation, adaptivity, variation, redundancy and low-energy syntheses’. (Liu, 2020) The process of identifying what factors to replicate consisted of scanning and analysing a bird’s nest. An iterative algorithm was developed from the quantitative, qualitative, and material data.

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The finished design using soft and rigid materials similar to a bird’s nest. _©Gianluca Giordano

Nature as a Solution

Biodesign is continuing to become a solution to our design problems whether they consist of structural weaknesses or simply use too much energy or release too much carbon dioxide. Henk Jonkers at the Technology University of Delft developed concrete that can repair itself. The bacterium Sporosarcina Pasteurii secretes limestone under certain conditions. The process consists of mixing the bacterial with nutrients in concrete before it has dried. Once the concrete cracks, the bacteria will then secrete limestone, filling the cracks. 

William Myers points out that this may ‘extend the service life of concrete while lowering the cost of maintenance’ thus reducing the carbon footprint of a material that has a high embodied energy. (Myers, 2012)

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A piece of self- healing concrete. _©TU Delft

The Building Botany was developed with insight on how trees grow and how their properties develop. Trees act as beams and become the structural components of the structure. As the growth of the trees continues the height and strength of the structure become greater. William Myers mentions that strengthening would act like a human muscle. (Myers, 2012) 

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The project was developed by Ferdinand Ludwig, Cornelius Hackenbracht and Oliver Storz at the University of Stuttgart, who have highlighted the strength of using natural elements from our surroundings which can be unpredictable to build and establish a successful structure. The beautiful dynamic established with this project is that biodesign tends to change and constantly evolve, often enhancing the project at the same time. 

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The Building Botany as an active structure. _©Ferdinand Ludwig

Biodesign is one answer to our climate change question. By continuing to experiment with our natural environment we become less dependent on the materials and methods of production which harm the ecosystem. While the lack of predictability in some of the projects are evident, the use and development of biodesign structures are easy to handle due to the software we have been able to use and model on. While trying to use biology in our designs has been a goal for many years, it is through the new research When responding to Le Corbusier, Salvador Dali said that the future of architecture “will be soft and hairy”. (Myers, 2012)

References

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Liu, T., 2020. Shi Ling Bridge | Bridge in Shi Ling Stone Forest — tonkin liu. [online] tonkin liu. Available at: <https://tonkinliu.co.uk/shi-ling-bridge> [Accessed 11 September 2021].

mirage. studio.7. 2013. 12 Alvar Aalto Quotes On Modern Architecture, Form, City And Culture. [online] Available at: <https://blog.miragestudio7.com/alvar-aalto-quotes/6514/#.W92CZoNXD9k.pinterest> [Accessed 10 September 2021].

Myers, W., 2012. BioDesign. [ebook] pp.1,3,4. Available at: <http://www.designdebates.nl/_pdf/whatIsBioDesign_10-5-12.pdf> [Accessed 10 September 2021].

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Roshko, T., 2010. The Pedagogy of Bio-design: Methodology Development. [ebook] WIT Press, pp.1-2. Available at: <http://file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/DN10049FU1.pdf> [Accessed 8 September 2021].

Author

Halima Mohammed is an architecture student whose passions lie in investigating what makes design connect with us emotionally. She believes that architecture is always worth questioning and discussing, trusting that architecture can be analysed like a piece of literature.

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