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?

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Futuristic Paris Smart City Design_ ©Vincent Callebaut Architecture

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

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Aqua Tower_Borrowing from the characteristics of terrestrial topography, the tower was imagined as a vertical landscape made up of hills, valley, pools _©Butler V Adams

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

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The Breathing Skins Project_©tebe.berlininnovation
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The Breathing Skins Project_©tebe.berlininnovation

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.

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Design for Tangram 2022 World Cup Stadium_©Tangram Gulf
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Design for Tangram 2022 World Cup Stadium_©Tangram Gulf

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.

Designing Ecosystems

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.

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Coral reef_©Tom Gordon
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Coral Reef Project_©vincent.callebaut.org/zoom/projects
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Coral Reef Project_vincent.callebaut.orgzoomprojects

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.

Solar panel arrangement inspired by Fibonacci series found in nature_©powertechnology.com

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.

References

[1] 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].

[2] Human Spaces. (2019). The Future of Design is Biomimicry. [online] Available at: https://blog.interface.com/future-of-design-biomimicry/.

[3] 18875853 (n.d.). Biomimicry in Architecture – Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change. [online] Issuu. Available at: https://issuu.com/ioanaleordean/docs/thesis_book_online-compressed [Accessed 2 Aug. 2021].

‌[4] Studiogang.com. (2010). Studio Gang Projects – Aqua Tower. [online] Available at: https://studiogang.com/project/aqua-tower.

[5] Anon, (2013). Tangram 2022 World Cup Stadium Cools Itself Like a Lizard – Green Prophet. [online] Available at: https://www.greenprophet.com/2013/05/tangram-ancient-qatari-design-world-cup-stadium/ [Accessed 2 Aug. 2021].

[6] Lipholt, N. (2019). Biomimicry -Where Nature is Changing Innovation. [online] . Available at: https://essay.utwente.nl/78549/1/LIPHOLT_BA_bms.pdf.

[7] CALLEBAUT, D. (n.d.). VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES PARIS. [online] VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES. Available at: https://vincent.callebaut.org/.

[8] www.power-technology.com. (n.d.). Biomimicry: powering the world with lessons from nature. [online] Available at: https://www.power-technology.com/features/biomimicry-wind-turbine-tubercle-heliotrope-power-technology-research-design/.

Author

An architect and artist, who loves to take up new endeavours with a willing attitude to learn and who is hell bent in her pursuit of fascination.

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