Some animals are smarter and more intelligent architects than humans. Don’t believe it? Hear us out! From making the strongest spider webs to creating the simplest bird nests, these animals, insects, and bird species are born architects! Imagine not doing a five-year course and still building extraordinarily. Damn, they’re lucky but so are we because we now have a plethora of inspiration and knowledge that we can apply to our structures that can enhance sustainability.

Biomimicry

If we break up the word Biomimicry into ‘Bio’ and ‘Mimicry’, one can infer that it means mimicking the biology I.e. imitation of biology or nature. What does that mean and how is it related to architecture?  

Architects are now understanding that the most beautiful, intricate, smart, and clever “design” is present in nature itself. From using natural and locally available materials to emphasizing on the fact that natural ventilation is a better solution than air conditioning, there is a lot to learn and adapt.  

From the cells found in the human body to the compounds found in nature, all organisms and their anatomy are an inspiration that can be created into art and architecture. The ecosystem has abundant creativity which can be turned into smart materials and smart architecture. Designers are now even taking inspiration from flora and fauna and even their habitats. 

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Biomimicry in nature ©www.arch2o.com
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Biomimicry in nature ©www.re-thinkingthefuture.com

Here are a few incredible species that make their own homes rather astonishingly.  

The terrific termites!

House: Termite mounds; Self-ventilating cities with specialized chambers. 

When not found covered over the wooden furniture in our homes, termites are busy designing forever-evolving cities in the forests. Though these structures seem solid from outside, the “walls” are porous which allow the air to flow in and out. The top portion of the mound consists of a chimney where the warm air mixes with the fresh air that flows in via tunnels and chambers; after which the cold air sinks preventing the overheating of the structure and maintaining the temperature control. Made up of soil, saliva, and dung, the mounds consist of several chambers dedicated to storing lots of food, a royal chamber for the king and queen, and even a fungal garden where they cultivate their food! The lower portion of the mound has an opening for entering and exiting and the structure extends up to 6 feet underground which is the coolest part of the structure.  

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The magnificent termite mound ©blog.nationalgeographic.org
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A cross-section of the mound showing its layers ©google

Structure inspired by a termite mound: 

Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwean architect Mick Pearce was given the challenge to design the largest retail office in the country without the hassle and budget of air conditioning! Inspired by the skyscraper-like termite mounds, he created a marvel that achieved 90% passive climate control. He used brick and concrete slabs with a high thermal mass that can absorb maximum heat, without heating the interior of the structure. Inside the building, low power fans pull in cool air from outside and distribute it throughout the buildings, which are absorbed by the concrete slabs insulating the structure and chilling the air inside. During the day, the warm air rises upwards and outside through the chimney maintaining the temperature inside.   

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Perspective view of the Eastgate Centre. ©www.livinspaces.net
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The intricate brick wall details. ©www.livinspaces.net
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The mechanism which controls the temperature during day and night. ©www.livinspaces.net

The brainy bees!

House: Beehives; Hexagonal structure with the maximum surface area.

Ever wondered why the beehives are hexagonal? This is because the hexagon takes the minimum amount of wax to build and produces the maximum amount of area to store wax. The way that worker bees construct their homes is quite marvelous too. The bees start constructing the hive from two-three different directions, each weaving a honeycomb at the same time but different places and eventually meet in the middle and combine the junction points on the comb. The combs hang down vertically and the cells like storage cell, worker cell, and queen cell and spread out horizontally.    

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Closer view of the hexagonal beehive. ©www.npr.org
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A beehive colony. ©www.honeybeesuite.com

Structure inspired by a beehive:

Apartment block, Bahamas.

An eight-story residential block that is being designed by BIG architects and its principal architect Bjarke Ingels, is set to become the tallest structure in Albany. Inspired by the hexagonal shape of the honeycomb, the structure incorporates that not only in its aesthetics but also in the functionality. Facing the south, the hexagonal exterior facade and framed balconies enable each apartment to have its sunken pool and creates a breath-taking view of the marina. These hexagonal patterns of the exterior continue down to the pavements and are reflected in the outdoor seating, landscape, and outdoor pool.  

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Perspective view of the apartments inspired by honeycomb. ©www.dezeen.com
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Closer view of the hexagonal balcony containing the private pools. ©www.dezeen.com
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Conceptual diagram of the pools in the hexagonal balconies. ©www.dezeen.com

The splendid sparrows!

House: Nests; Simple and minimalistic.

Sparrows make the maximum use of the space and materials available to them. Be it your streetlights or kitchen rooftops, they create a home, made out of twigs, dried vegetation, and grass that is steady enough to support its eggs and chicks. For the lining of the nest, sparrows often use feathers and even paper! They make the most of the materials around them, something that architects can take inspiration from! Sometimes sparrows even build nests next to each other so that they can share a common wall.  

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A sparrow’s nest. ©in.pinterest.com
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Closer view of a sparrow’s nest. ©in.pinterest.com

Structure inspired by a nest:

Beijing Olympic Stadium, China

Interestingly the Beijing Olympic Stadium is also called the “Bird’s nest” because of its strikingly similar appearance to a bird’s nest. Just like the sparrow uses twigs, the architect Herzog & de Meuron used an amalgamation of beams and other structural elements to create the essence of the artificial forest. With the sports arena in the center and a thicket of supporting elements and numerous staircases on the outside, the combination is sustainable and aesthetically appealing. The spaces in between these beams and structural supports are filled with translucent membranes that make the roof weatherproof similar to how birds stuff the open spaces of their nests with soft fillers.  

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Exterior views of the stadium. ©www.arch2o.com
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The bird’s nest. ©www.arch2o.com
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Interior view of the stadium showing structural elements and staircases. ©www.arch2o.com

While these are just a few examples of buildings that are creatively and functionally inspired by the houses that animals built, there many more to the list. Architects have applied these innovative techniques to their structures around the world, like the Yellow treehouse restaurant in New Zealand which is inspired by cocoons, and a dynamic pavilion which is an adaptation of a spider’s web. So, what is your next design going to be like?  

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Cocoon shaped restaurant in Auckland. ©www.archdaily.com
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Night view of the restaurant. ©www.archdaily.com
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the bridge leading to the restaurant ©www.archdaily.com
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A pavilion inspired by a spider’s web. ©www.wired.com
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Aerial view of the pavilion. ©www.wired.com
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Interior view. ©www.wired.com
Aishwarya Khurana
Author

Aishwarya Khurana is an architect and creative writer, who likes to express herself through humor, words, and quirky ideas. A design enthusiast, butter chicken lover, and music junkie, she loves to read and write about art & architecture and believes that nobody can defeat her in a pop-culture quiz.

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