Generally, when we talk about blending architecture and nature, we tend to think about very few aspects like landscape design and green methods. Though these methods play an important role in architecture, there are other ways too, in which architecture and nature can be combined. Incorporating nature in the buildings also means valuing all forms of nature, like considering the fauna, valuing five elements of nature, using nature-friendly materials, and looking at the impact of the building on the environment. Architects should think about architecture and nature as a united whole.
“Architecture is essentially an extension of nature into the man-made realm” – from the book ‘The eyes of the skin’ by Pallasmaa.
1. Entreparotas House, Mexico
Built in a natural setting, this house allows users to live in constant relation with nature. When there is a presence of the five elements of nature around, we develop a deep connection with nature. The volumes built for every space of the house are separated from each other through pathways, which have plants and water bodies alongside.
The transparent approach through the use of glass throughout the building provides views of the forest. Users can constantly feel the presence of five elements of nature in this house. The earth and water through landscape, clean air from the forest, fire obtained by the sun on open terraces, and space element through the constant connection between built and unbuilt forms.
2. Thorncrown Chapel, Arkansas
Thorncrown Chapel is an example of biophilic architecture merged with spirituality. Biophilic architecture is necessary for enhancing positive thoughts in humans, which eventually helps in spiritual development. Constructed with organic materials and in a forest setting, this church enforces the humans to adapt to the natural world. The truss-structure stands as a striking contrast to the woods yet provides transparency through the use of a glass facade.
3. Sharma Springs, Indonesia
Why not use a material that can be grown in nature in abundance by humans too? Sharma Springs incorporates nature using the naturally grown material – bamboo. Being the tallest bamboo structure in Bali, it also has all the luxurious amenities that a modern house has. Each space in the building allows for spectacular views of the plantations outside. Bamboo has a high tensile strength like steel and compression resistance similar to concrete, and so it allowed for the structure to go as high as six floors.
4. Mellor Primary School, Mellor
In biomimicry, we often take inspiration from birds, animals, insects, etc., and copy either their form or their mechanisms and derive it to design a structure. But what about them as real life-forms? Today, where the earth is getting covered by concrete and the trees are getting cut down, the other life-forms, who have equal rights on this planet, are left bare. Unfortunately, very few structures are being designed keeping in mind the habitat for these species.
Mellor Primary School in Manchester is one of the buildings incorporating nature in the form of other living species. The school is situated in a natural habitat encouraging ‘forest culture’ in children from an early age. The material used is wood, for both the structure as well as the cladding. The ‘habitat wall’ in the school is the prime focus of the structure. It attracts various types of insects, birds, small animals, bats, etc., to it. It is made of half logs, timber cuttings, bamboo tubes, plastic and terracotta pipes, etc. This is an example where children learn from an early age to live alongside other life forms.
5. The Shell Mycelium Pavilion, India
Today, as we are searching for ways to make a structure last forever, we are forgetting the principle of nature- nothing lasts forever. Not even buildings. What we own, we have to give it back to nature. Adhering to this nature’s principle, Yassin Areddia Designs constructed this pavilion for Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016 to spread the message of the need for temporariness of the temporary structures.
The pavilion was built of timber and mycelium- a fungus. In this, tray-like cavities were created between the timber frames and then filled with fungus. Coconut leaves and husk fibers were laid over it and left to dry to build a protective covering over the mycelium. Eventually, the mycelium ate the wood and merged with it. This structure then biodegraded, leaving the place with only experiences and memories.
6. Casa Batlló, Spain
Casa Batlló is a building that incorporates nature in the form of natural organic forms derived from animal forms and bones. Antoni Gaudi always provided the users with an experience to feel the natural shapes in a space. At each point in the structure, one would feel the presence of living organisms through architecture.
7. Warka Water Tower
The problem of water shortage is not new, especially in far-off villages where people have to walk for miles to fetch water. Warka water tower is a structure inspired by nature, designed to capture water from the air. It is constructed using bamboo as a structural material and a recyclable fabric mesh. The rain, and water vapor in the air, fog, and dew are trapped in this mesh and collected in a tank below through gravity. Since its first construction in Ethiopia, which had great success, it is now being constructed in different parts of the world, with improvements in design after each construction.
8. Edifício Santalaia, Colombia
Green walls are the ‘living nature’ in a building. The green wall in Edifício Santalaia residential building is the largest vertical garden in the world. It features over 115,000 plants of 10 different species, which help to boost biodiversity and produce more clean air, and keeps away the polluted air along with reducing the cooling loads in the summers and providing insulation in the winters.
9. Mega Foodwalk, Thailand
This shopping mall features indoor landscape elements to create a natural environment within the building. The internal space is derived from the concept of a ‘valley surrounded by lush green mountains’. To create a ‘valley-like experience’ the central courtyard has a sunken plaza and there is a gradual slope leading to it surrounded by plants. This is an example of a building incorporating nature that helps users to develop a connection with nature, in the interiors too.
10. Suzlon One Earth, India
Suzlon one earth is an example of a building incorporating nature by using green methods like- capturing solar energy, wind, and rainwater, recycling grey-water, incorporating landscape features for passive air-flow, etc. It has obtained green building certifications by LEED and GRIHA.