Of late two Bio-terminologies have been doing the rounds in architectural circles.
Biomimicry and Biophilia… They have gathered momentum and aroused curiosity.
Let’s give you a lowdown on them, starting with broad definitions, differentiate between them, and then go on to some more to get you more in the know…
Biomimicry is the imitation of the processes of natural systems to apply them to solve human problems with the optimum use of available resources.
Biophilia, on the other hand, is the innate love of nature that humans have and how it affects all levels of their well-being.
In a nutshell, biomimicry is the “mimicry,” or more accurately, the emulation of life’s engineering. In contrast, biophilia describes humans’ connection with nature and biophilic design is replicating experiences of nature in design to reinforce that connection. Biomimicry is an innovation method to achieve better performance; the biophilic design is an evidence-based design method to improve health and wellbeing. Biomimicry is more heavily used in technology and product development circles; biophilia applies more directly to interior design, architecture, and urban design.
Essentially, these two concepts draw upon nature in different ways. Biomimicry recognizes the innovation potential of life’s tested-and-true “technologies.” Biophilia recognizes the health benefits of mankind’s biological connectedness with nature. Together, they show the diversity of inspiration we can derive from nature.
Starting with biomimicry – Our changing relationship with the earth and the resultant changes we are experiencing in the ecosystem, climate, life-form extinctions, etc. have all brought about this consciousness and urge to do something about it before it is too late. In all fields of our interest, by applying a more sustainable bio-approach – biomimicry is the way forward. The logical optimistic view has been that we are a part of nature and studying/applying it would impact us positively. For the design and architectural spheres too, biomimicry serves as useful inspiration. Just like one would undertake an appropriate case study in the normal design process, bio-examples of similar situations can also be used by studying and applying their learnings. The process would be the same – Frame the question, find a similar case in nature, study it, prototype it, apply it.
The obvious questions that have come about in the thinking architectural mind are:
– How does Biomimicry in spatial planning influence users?
Mimicking natural processes, it seems reasonable to assume that it would influence users positively. Exactly how much and exactly how it does so is a matter that is still being studied for conclusive results. Gut feel and these various studies do show encouraging results.
– Can biomimicry be used in spatial planning?
Using the forest as an example for a self-sustaining city, or an anthill as an example for a climate-controlled building, the options are many. The creative design brain can find inspiration in the endless processes in nature and use them as the basis for the design of human habitation.
– What design problems can biomimicry solve?
The areas of impact of biomimicry range from the environment, social aspects of life, and our economy. Problems that require design inspiration and design thinking can benefit from the imitation of bio-processes. To get the creative juices flowing and for examples of biomimicry in design, see:
From the indirect systems approach of biomimicry, let’s move onto the questions for the direct human domain of biophilia…
– How does the use of Biophilia influence the users?
Human beings are instinctively biophilic. Biophilia has a direct impact on their wellbeing – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Wilson describes it as “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.”. Being exposed to nature and all things natural is almost a human need. The use of biophilia in architectural design makes it suitable to the users and at the same time, has a direct impact on their wellbeing. As a result, biophilic architecture has a positive influence on the users.
– Does it affect human emotions and psychology in any way? If so, how?
Especially in the technological and mechanized world we live today, our indoor lifestyle, our cars, our machines, the internet, etc. have all led to our disconnect with the natural world. Further leading to our own emotional and psychological imbalance. To restore this very basic human instinct, incorporating both biomimicry and biophilia in our designs has become almost imperative. Green cities, green buildings, green surroundings, green living in the future. A biomimicry approach to systems design for the optimum use of our resources without wastage and a biophilic approach for our habitat design to restore our connection with nature is necessary for us to make a large contribution towards our health and the health of the planet.
Summing up, biomimicry and biophilia are two sides of a coin and are both necessary for restoring the bio-balance that has been lost over the years of our ‘progress’. The design of human habitats and human systems using a bio-inspired approach can be the key to architecting the future of the Web of life on this planet!