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.

Entreparotas House, Mexico - Sheet1
The house in natural setting ©Lorena Darquea
Entreparotas House, Mexico - Sheet2
Water bodies and plants surrounding the structure ©Lorena Darquea
Entreparotas House, Mexico - Sheet3
Forest views through large glass windows ©Lorena Darquea
Entreparotas House, Mexico - Sheet4
Pathways between the volumes ©Lorena Darquea

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.

Thorncrown Chapel, Arkansas - Sheet1
The chapel in natural setting © Randall Connaughton
Thorncrown Chapel, Arkansas - Sheet2
Views of natural landscape from inside © Randall Connaughton

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.

Sharma Springs, Indonesia Sheet1
The bamboo structure © Rio Helmi
Sharma Springs, Indonesia Sheet2
Bamboo support system © Rio Helmi
Sharma Springs, Indonesia Sheet3
Bamboo screens for partitions © Rio Helmi

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.

Mellor Primary School, Mellor - Sheet1
The habitat wall ©Beccy Lane
Mellor Primary School, Mellor - Sheet2
Timber used as support and for cladding ©Beccy Lane

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.

The Shell Mycelium Pavilion, India - Sheet1
The pavilion © Krishna & Govind Raja
The Shell Mycelium Pavilion, India - Sheet2
Timber trays from inside © Krishna & Govind Raja
The Shell Mycelium Pavilion, India - Sheet3
Coconut leaves as a covering © Krishna & Govind Raja
The Shell Mycelium Pavilion, India - Sheet4
Growth of fungus © Krishna & Govind Raja

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.

Casa Batlló, Spain - Sheet1
Façade of the building resembling bone structure ©www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com
Casa Batlló, Spain - Sheet2
Natural curved shapes in the interiors ©www.wikipedia.org 

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.

Warka Water Tower - Sheet1
The tower © www.warkawater.org/
Warka Water Tower - Sheet2
Fabric mesh © www.designboom.com
Warka Water Tower - Sheet3
Evolution of designs © www.warkawater.org/

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.

Edifício Santalaia, Colombia - Sheet1
View of the green façade ©Daniel Segura Photography

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.

Mega Foodwalk, Thailand - Sheet1
Indoor landscape © Rungkit Charoenwat
Mega Foodwalk, Thailand - Sheet2
The mountain-concept © Rungkit Charoenwat
Mega Foodwalk, Thailand - Sheet3
Landscape features- plants and water body © Rungkit Charoenwat

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.

Suzlon One Earth, India
View of the structure ©A. Ramprasad Naidu
Pranjali Karnik
Author

Pranjali is a passionate artist and an architect who loves to blend her designs with nature. She designs meticulously and is always exploring the impact of architectural spaces on user's mind and body. You will find her lost in travelling, daydreams, books, and also on mountain trails.

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