Design on a broader spectrum finds its origin in inspiration. The trait to adapt and absorb into a physical entity is being molded to fit into various capacities. One such process of learning from nature has seen its peaks and lows throughout mankind. A constant recollection to go back to the roots of nature is emphasized. Replication of a structure without understanding the intent and context behind its existence turns into mere mimicry. In today’s lens, we are in desperate need of a sustainable creation to help hold on to the span of the planet. So how can design help tackle this issue?

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Aguahoja I by Ar. Neri Oxman ©

Aguahoja I, an installation to display the merger of biosynthesis into Three Dimensional fabrication of an external entity, is a renowned result by its creator Architect and Designer, Neri Oxman. It stands out as a team collaboration from various departments with a sole message to convey that structures could grow over time, in unison with the environment rather than just the mechanical assembly of various parts being extensively used in the conventional building systems.  It depicts the constant battle between a “chisel and a gene” and the need for a belief system in the latter. 

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The core principle ©ted talks|NeriOxman

So where does its identity lie? The entire structure taking up the form of an enclosing leaf is made of the second most abundant polymer seen forming the exoskeleton of the arthropods such as crabs and spiders called chitin. The overall pallet is composed of abundant biomaterials such as chitin, cellulose, pectin and water. The water acts as a bonding agent helping the molecular fabrication into the conversion of flexible skin. A living, breathing, sweating skin to encompass a skeleton. The skin which keeps in check the physical parameters such as the strain, humidity and light penetration.

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The dense material composition along with the percent of the constituents ©MIT media lab

Unlike concrete, steel and glass, this said material is custom made to constantly change dialogue with its proximity. Alter the humidity conditions, access to light based on the seasonal changes. The pavilion when in contact with the rainfall disintegrates to reach its basic form adhering to the philosophy of “water to water”. With the play of varying the material property, one can achieve a spectrum of a transparent fragile sheet to a sturdy and stringent leather format. 

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The robotic fabrication process ©

With millions of tons of plastic waste being dumped everyday with no other alternatives, an introduction to another material of replacement is bound to happen. Instead of creating an alienated material whose side effects may take a long span to unleash, opting for the basic biopolymers existent from centuries seems like a good dig to dive into. 

Derived from the biopolymers, the robotic deposition weaves out a pattern after close considerations to the templates obtained through the analysis of the weaving format of habitats of insects, the color and stiffness are directly proportional forming a natural gradient. The application then weaves out an adhesive consisted framework which later is filled with the biomaterial. The dimensions of required porosity between the members are all predetermined using the aid of algorithms computed. 

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Micro resolution of the material showing the intact weave ©

From viewing on the microscale level, one can understand the modal emphasis given to the hexagonal shape which we often repeat on geodesic domes for its ability to form a stable and expansive fragment. 

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Derived Hexagons ©

From a pavilion display to real-world applications, Oxman stresses the need to start digitally printing structures. The urge to pick up the pace, the flexibility of renovation and bare the additions makes it a good solution. The body is self-aware and is soluble in water barring the crisis of waste management. Using renewable sources and integrating them with robotic innovation serves both ends well. Looking back to nature’s method of survival need not necessarily mean the practice too. Keen observation of the intracity of building cocoons, nests, or even the textural composition of a leaf could lead to smarter ways of building. A building with a response to its users. A building with a stimulus towards the environment. A building with a mind of its own. 

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The entire panel on the display of various geometries obtained by variation of the materials and fed algorithm ©

Harshitha K S is an avid reader, writer and student who believes that the simple habitual observations often spark exceptional ideas. She finds describing spaces through words to an unfamiliar to be engagingly vivid. With sustainability being the matchless shot forward, she hopes to make a worthwhile contribution.