Architecture has always been tied with nature and regarded it as a source of inspiration for years. It has also been a muse for the creation of several philosophies and movements that have characterized design. Biomimicry is one such ideology that has helped mold and contribute structures, principles, and forms to the built environment. Biomimicry is a method of solving human challenges by learning and imitating the strategies in nature. It views nature as a measure, a mentor, and a model. In architecture, biomimicry is often used to seek sustainable measures by understanding the principles governing the form rather than replicating the mere form itself. It applies to several aspects of the architectural and engineering field in terms of materials, structural systems, design, and much more. The mimicry can be seen at three levels i.e. at that of the organism, its behavior, and the ecosystem.
Given below is a list that comprises 10 examples of biomimicry in Architecture.
1. Beijing National Stadium, Beijing
The Beijing National Stadium, popularly known as the bird’s nest, was designed by Swiss Architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2008 for the Olympics. As the name implies, the structure rises from its surroundings like an upturned nest. The stadium comprises two structures, the concrete seating bowl, and the outer steel frame, that represents the twigs of the nest from the stadium. Similar to how a nest is insulated by stuffing material between the twigs, the façade is filled with ETFE (Ethyl tetrafluoroethylene) panels to protect spectators, provide acoustic insulation, reduce the dead load on the roof and optimize the entry of sunlight.
2. National Aquatics Center, Beijing
The National Aquatic Center, also known as a water cube, was another spectacular project created to host the 2008 Olympics. The structure was inspired by cells and the natural formation of soap bubbles. The unique geometry of the bubbles was used repetitively to build a structure that appeared organic and random. The continuous skin of the structure was created with ETFE (Ethyl tetrafluoroethylene) due to its lightweight and great insulation. The cladding allows the entry of more light as compared to glass and even traps 20% of solar energy, which is used to heat the pools.
3. Council House 2, Melbourne
The office building was designed using strategies from a termite mound. The system used by termites to control and maintain the temperature in the mound was replicated in the building through natural convection, thermal mass, water cooling, and ventilation stacks. The façade of the structure takes inspiration from the skin system i.e. the epidermis (outer skin) and dermis (inner skin). The dermis acts as an outside zone and houses stairs, ducts, lifts, etc. while the inner line defines the fire compartment. The bark façade of the structure also assists with natural ventilation of the wet systems.
4. Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin
Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the dynamic feature of the museum is the Quadracci Pavilion. The pavilion contains the Burke Brise Soleil, which is a movable sunscreen resembling the wings of a bird due to its opening and closing mechanism.
5. The Gherkin, London
Norman Foster’s iconic skyscraper, the 30 St Mary Axe, commonly known as Gherkin mimics the shape and lattice structure of the Venus Flower Basket Sponge. The lattice exoskeleton and shape of the sponge provides strength and stability. The hollow basket formed by the skeleton filters water for nutrients as well. The structural elements of the building are connected at different angles on each floor due to its shape. This system allows for an open floor plan, vertical support without interior columns, resistance to winds, and ventilation throughout all floors.
6. Eastgate Center, Zimbabwe
Designed by Mick Pearce in collaboration with Arup engineers, the center is a shopping mall and office building that makes use of natural cooling with sophistication. Inspired by the natural cooling system of termites, the air enters the building at the lower floors and escapes through the chimneys. The natural system helps reduce energy consumption by 10% when compared to a standard building.
7. Esplanade Theatre, Singapore
Inspired by the hard thorn skin of the Durian fruit that protects its seed, the theatre designed by DP Architects and Michael Wilford has an elaborate skin system. The façade of the structure has a responsive shading system of the curved framework and triangular aluminum louvers that adjusts to the sun’s angle and position during the day. The system provides natural light as well as a dramatic effect of shadows in the space.
8. Eden Project, England
Eden Project is the world’s largest greenhouse. The huge semi-circular modules were inspired by the shape of soap bubbles. The efficient structural system consisting of hexagons and pentagons were derived after studying pollen grains, radiolaria, and carbon molecules. The biomes were made of ETFE (Ethyl tetrafluoroethylene) and steel. The geodesics are self-cleaning and act as a thermal blanket that traps air between them, resulting in reduced energy consumption.
9. Institute du Monde Arabe, Paris
The adaptive façade of the structure mimics the iris of the eye. The cladding of the structure acts as an automated eye that dilates based on the conditions during the day, while the kinetic façade on the south maintains thermal exposure. This helps control the entry of light into interior spaces and maintains thermal comfort.
10. Eiffel Tower, Paris
The iron structure elicits inspiration from the femur i.e. the thigh bone. The internal iron braces represent the trabecula within the femur whereas the outward flares at the base of the tower resemble the curved portion at the top of the bone. The features similar to the bone help the structure withstand shear winds and provide structural stability.