It’s 2070. You’re standing on the balcony of an apartment at the topmost level, enjoying the view of the city. What do you see? How does the future look?
Did you paint the city of the future with endless skyscrapers, bundles of highways, and flying cars? Or maybe, you thought of Wakanda? What we picture is likely based on the sci-fi content that we consume. Now let’s try articulating our imagination. How do the buildings look? Do they all seem monotonous? Are they entirely organic and unrelated to each other? Do people fly or drive their cars? How are the roads?
When we try to address these questions with reason, we can speculate a futuristic possibility of architecture without pulling a fantasy. My vision of the future has an architecture that is mimetic of nature. We already have an elite set of biomimetic designs of buildings in quite a few parts of the world. But they might become a norm in the coming years, the reason being the fact that architecture is humankind’s creation. And humans are inspired by nature. We learn from its billions of years of design strategies and interpret them to create solutions for problems.
“Nothing is invented. For it is already written in nature.” –Antoni Gaudi
Form Follows Nature
The urban population of the world is more connected to the internet than to nature. And this has been time and again proved to be hazardous to our mental and physical health. We’ve been designing spaces for so many years by working closely with elements of nature like light and water. And at times when we exclude nature, that space abets pessimistic reactions from its users.
While comparing concrete surfaces and wooden or mud surfaces, don’t we find the latter more pleasant? Don’t organic forms excite us more than rigid ones? When spaces mimic nature, our mind calms down, and we react positively to our surroundings.
We’ve evolved over billions of years in the lap of nature before building cities. It is only fitting that we seek to recognize nature in any form to have a sense of belonging in the cities that we create.
Adapting to Survive
Biomimetic architecture derives principles of form and structure from nature. Not only those but also its behavior patterns and adaptation techniques. It transforms a building into a living organism that grows and reacts to its context.
The example above is of The Breathing Skins Project by Tobias Becker from Germany. The surfaces ‘breathe’ into and out of the space enclosed through the apertures on the surface. The concept is from organic skins that regulate their permeability to control the flow of light, matter, and temperature. We can expect breathing skins to replace the static walls and windows of buildings in the future.
Another example is the cooling technique of the proposed Tangram World Cup Stadium in Qatar. It sports a cooling process modeled after desert lizards (which fan themselves using their scales) to push hot air out of the stadium and keep cool air inside.
If buildings work as organisms, they only function if there is a supporting ecosystem – in this case – neighborhoods, or cities to which the building belongs. The ecosystem of buildings, public spaces, intermediate spaces, and mobilizing units is parallel to the ecosystem of the natural habitat. Translating nature’s ecosystem to cities seems to be the road to creating sustainable cities that produce, consume, and recycle within themselves.
The Coral Reef Project by Vincent Callebaut Architects in Haiti is a mimicry of the Coral reef ecosystem, which seemingly moves in wave-like patterns due to water currents. Cuboidal housing modules are aligned and piled up and create the wave-like sculptural quality of the buildings. The public space between the two wave-like housing units is a protected and visually connected enclosure for communal activities.
Large-scale biomimetic systems consume abundant resources and produce a lot of waste. It would do good to make the system self-reliant by creating ways to harness its energy and recycle resources so that nothing is taken in or out of the system once it’s fully functional.
When redesigning concentrated solar arrays to save space, Professor Alexander Mitsos discovered that arranging solar reflectors according to the Fibonacci series could shrink the area needed for panels by 20% while not affecting the power output.
Nature’s Warehouse of Solutions
The universe is around 13 billion years old. It has tried and tested infinite possibilities of existence, and all the designs that remain today are naturally selected. We’ve started creating our own ecosystems nested within the natural framework. When these cities don’t cohesively work along with nature, we face problems. And nature is a search engine of solutions. If we know what we’re looking for, it gives us millions of results to read and provides an architecture that develops a symbiotic relationship with the environment.
 ArchDaily. (2016). Let Your Building “Breathe” With This Pneumatic Façade Technology. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/789230/let-your-building-to-breathe-with-this-pneumatic-facade-technology [Accessed 2 Aug. 2021].
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