As we continue to foster a symbiotic relationship with our environment, we are also learning from the processes, structures, and characteristics of nature and applying it into our own ways of living. In architecture and design, biomimetic strategies and designs are employed strategically to create responsive architecture and spaces that are environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient. Biomimicry, just like sustainable design, is an increasing trend at a moment where the natural environment takes a central place in much of our thinking and approach to life in general. Below, we’ll explore some instances of effective biomimicry designs in interiors.
For a natural history museum, the use of biomimicry design is an appropriate way to reflect on and educate visitors about the processes of nature and the environment. The museum designed by Perkins + Will features an interior Cell Wall that is made out of glass and aluminum. In its three-layered lattice web formation, the wall visually resembles and mimics the plant and animal cells by responding to and filtering the natural light and temperature, thus helping to regulate interior conditions by natural means.
The Biomimetic Office Building in Zurich, according to the architect Michael Pawlyn, provides a way of rethinking the workplace architecture. By looking to natural forms such as the bone structures of birds, cuttlefish, and mollusk shells, the building efficiently employs structural elements such as columns and floor slabs. Interior temperatures are also controlled by shades that take inspiration from the sensitive plant (mimosa pudica) and the Venus flytrap, which naturally respond to external stimulation and changes in the environment.
3. Indus Tiles
As part of the Bio-Integrated Design Lab studio project at UK’s Bartlett School of Architecture, these fan-shaped tiles both employ biomimicry and the use of micro-algae in their design. The shape and veins of each tile allow water to travel through them and mimic leaf structures, which allow water and nutrients to be distributed throughout a plant. The microalgae in the tiles act as a filter that purifies contaminated water flowing down the tiles, mimicking a natural process called bioremediation.
Breathing Skins is a project founded in Germany and is all about responsive architecture. According to the website, the technology used in Breathing Skins is “inspired by organic skins” such as that of the human body and animals, which respond to their environment by adjusting the permeability of its surface according to the surrounding temperatures and humidity levels. In this way, the building and the interior “breathes” through a façade of the natural circulation system which inflates or deflates to provide air circulation, lighting, and temperature and humidity control.
As its name suggests, the chair takes inspiration from nature. Specifically, the designer Lilian van Daal has looked to plant cell structures for their ability to provide both softness and flexibility as well as structure and rigidity. The 3D printed chair is made of elongated units that look visually similar to plant cells. Where there needs to be more structure and rigidity, the forms are arranged vertically, and where there needs to be softness and flexibility, they become lined horizontally. This strategic use of cellular structure also eliminates the use of foam in van Daal’s chair, a material that is extremely harmful to the environment.
Andrew McConnell’s staircase takes its form after an unlikely source: the spine of a whale. However, upon closer examination of each piece, this biomimetic makes sense as each section is interlocked with its adjacent pieces to create a continuous and rigid structure. Just like a whale’s spine, the staircase makes use of a central structural steel support extending through all the individual pieces, from which each tread of the stair extends. The result is a breathtaking spiral staircase that seems to float effortlessly, just like a whale.
The hexagonal structure of honeycombs has been recognized for its stability and efficiency throughout human history. Here, the structure has been utilized by the carpet tile company Interface as a biomimetic design that reflects the “perfection of imperfection” of nature. Just like honeycombs, these carpets are assembled by individual units and the randomness of the patterns reflects the imperfection of nature, leading to reduced waste and more sustainable design.
Another carpet product by Interface, the TacTiles is a line of glue-free carpet tiles inspired by the gecko lizard, which is able to stick to any surface by the millions of tiny hairs on its feet. This adhesive-free product, in its elimination of the gluing process and need of adhesives, is more sustainable and creates less waste than the adhesive carpet tile.
Image Sources: TacTiles Carpet ©interface.com
In making these smart veneers, the designer Elaine Ng Yan Ling is inspired by “nature’s invisible energy” and looks to the structures of various plant species to mimic how they adapt to their natural surroundings. She then creates layered veneers made of “fabric, reactive dyes, and reflective surfaces” that are responsive to the light, temperature, and humidity of the surrounding environment so that they are more resilient and have a longer lifespan.
Developed by the designer Teresa van Dongen, the Ambio light employs bioluminescent microorganisms to generate light in an air-tight glass tube filled with a liquid that acts as seawater for these organisms. As a result, a soft teal blue light is generated each time the light fixture moves or swings, mimicking the movement of the waves in the ocean. Not only does the design look to nature for inspiration, but it also employs nature itself as a source of energy, according to the designer’s statement on her website.