Sustainability in architecture has been a serious concern over the years. Architects try to come up with the best solutions to tackle the issue of sustainability. One of the ways the architects use is Biomimetic Architecture. In this technique, the architects get inspiration from nature’s solution to problems. Architects study the problems of buildings and the natural beings affected by the same problem. They investigate the solution of nature and get inspired by it, later translating the principles to human engineering. People have been using this technique for centuries now. This is proved by the below case studies that date back in time.

1. Living Roots Bridge

This architecture dates back in time. The structure takes 15 to 30 years to complete. Built by the common people of War Khasis, War Jaintias, Konyak Nagas, and Baduy people. Commonly seen in the regions of Meghalaya, India, and is locally known as ‘Jing Kieng Jri’. The handmade bridge is made up of living Ficus trees. The building process started by planting trees on either side of the riverbank, making the bridge’s foundation begin. Then as the tree grows over the years the people slowly start threading the roots across a temporary bamboo scaffolding that connects the gap. The tangles of the root grow thick and strong over time with the help of humidity and foot traffic. This bridge can carry more than 50 people as the tree matures. Further, the lifespan of the bridge is more than 700 years. 

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Living Root Bridge, Meghalaya_©Giulio Di Sturco.
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Double-decker Root Bridge, Cheerapunji_©Giulio Di Sturco.

2. Brunelleschi Dome 

In 1436, Filippo Brunelleschi created a dome for the Florence cathedral by studying the strength of eggshells. This helped him in creating a thinner and lighter dome. Further, the use of a herringbone brick pattern in the construction of the dome mimics the strength and stability found in natural structures like beehives and bird’s nests. 

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Filippo Brunelleschi’s design for a lighter Dome, Florence_©Google Images.
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Brunelleschi Dome_©

3. Eiffel Tower

Constructed by Gustave Eiffel in 1889, located in Paris. The lattice-like structure of the tower provides strength and stability. This was inspired by the human thigh bone. The outward flare at the base and the wrought iron bracing inside the structure follow the design of the bone. How the bone supports the weight, the tower also supports its weight without bending or shearing and allows ventilation. 

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Left – Eiffel Tower, Paris and right -Thigh Bone_©
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Eiffel Tower nested trusses_©
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Bone Cross

4. Casa Milà

This building was built by Antoni Gaudi in 1912. The stone façade of the building depicts natural rock formations. Structural techniques like the catenary arches and double curvature surfaces represent the caverns – which are self-supporting without the requirement of additional columns.  

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Casa Mila, Spain_Samuel T Ludwig.
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Natural Caverns_©Mark Langford.

5. Johnson Wax Headquarters

The headquarters is in the USA and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939. The highlight of the building is the tall mushroom-shaped columns which were inspired by the anatomy of staghorn cholla cactus. The architect was inspired by the branching form of the tree-like cactus and incorporated it into the design. The tall dendriform columns act as a canopy, for the great workroom. The columns are made up of concrete and steel mesh.

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Great workroom, Johnson Wax Headquarters, USA_©
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Staghorn Cholla Cactus_©Getty Images.

6. Sydney Opera House

Danish Architect Jørn Utzon designed the Sydney Opera House which was constructed in 1973. The attractive feature of the structure is its form itself. The sails like shells were inspired from orange segments. The architect used an organic form like an orange segment to create a distinctive shell-like structure which optimised the strength and efficiency. This structure is self-supporting. The shells of the 14 separate roofs when combined form a sphere.

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Diagram showing the design from orange peel to ‘shell’ roof of Sydney Opera House_©V. Ryan.

7. Institut Du Monde Arab

In 1987, Architect Jean Nouvel designed Institut Du Monde Arabe located in Paris. The highlight of the building is the façade covered in mashrabiya, which was inspired by the iris of the eye. The cladding screen acts like eyes which contract and expand to control the amount of light entering. Similarly, with the help of this kinetic system architects could control the amount of light entering the building keeping the atmosphere inside cool. The materials used for cladding are steel, glass, and aluminium.

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Institut Du Monde Arab_©IMA, Fabrice Cateloy.
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Mashrabiya_©IMA, Fabrice Cateloy.

8. Biosphere 2

Designed by a group of architects in 1991, in Arizona, USA. The design was inspired by the complexity and resilience of nature. The building consists of interconnected biomes and like a natural ecosystem these biomes interact and exchange materials energy and nutrients to maintain a balanced, self-sustaining, and repairing environment. Further, it is resilient and can adapt and change over time.

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Biosphere 2, Arizona, USA_©Joseph Sohm, Getty Images.

9. Olympic Fish Pavilion

Designed by Frank Gehry in 1992, located in Spain. This pavilion was made for the Summer Olympics and depicts the movement of the fish. The structure exhibits biomimicry in many ways:

The building mimics the streamlined shape of a swimming fish in its form. Further, it mimics its adaptability to the environment, like how the steel metal changes colour depending on the angle of the sun and weather conditions. Another aspect is the open spaces which allow for optimal circulation and natural light. Moreover, like every other biomimicry project, this also sends out a message to preserve the marine habitat.

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Olympic Fish Pavilion, Barcelona_©Zoonar, Vladyslav Danilin.

10. Waterloo International Terminal 

Designed by Nicholas Grimshaw in 1993, located in London. The structure was inspired by the scaly pangolin. The glass panel fixing mimics the flexible scales of a pangolin and can move in response to the imposed air pressure from the train entry and exit from the terminal.

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Waterloo International Terminal_©
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Waterloo International Terminal_©Maibritt Pedersen Zari.

11. Denver International Airport

Designed by Fentress Architect in 1995, USA. The iconic tent-like roof structure is inspired by the form of the Rocky Mountains and the wings of a bird in flight. The tensile fabric resembles the natural peaks and valleys. The huge window walls on the sides of the terminal let natural light and surrounding views. Which gives an experience of the space being blended with nature.

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Denver International Airport_©
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Denver International Airport_©

12. Esplanade Theatre

This Singaporean complex was built by architect Michael Wilford and DP Architects in 2002. The building is referred to as “durian” due to its resemblance to the tropical fruit. The structure shows biomimicry by using the technique of durian fruit- like how the fruit uses its spikes to protect the seeds. The theatre uses a cladding system consisting of a triangular aluminium sun shield to protect the building’s interior. The shading transforms in shape and orientation based on the sun’s angle and position. The exterior shell of the building shows the durability and strength of organic forms like durian.

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Esplanade Theatre, Singapore_©Paul Kozlowski, Umicore.
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Esplanade Theatre, Biomimicry_©Paul Kozlowski, Umicore
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Esplanade Shading, Biomimicry_©Paul Kozlowski, Umicore.

13. Sagrada Família

The structure by Antoni Gaudi is a masterpiece in Barcelona. Many elements in this structure are inspired by nature. Namely tree-like columns – which branched out at the top to support the ceiling, and hyperboloid structures like the spires and vaults – like that seen in plant stems and bones which minimises the need for additional support.

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Sagrada Familia, spires and cranes_©Jeremy Keith.
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Hypoerboloides sagrada familia_©Sagrada familia tours.
Tree-like columns inside Sagrada Familia panoramic view_©Alexander Kachkaev.

Most of the buildings mentioned above were not built at a time when biomimicry was trending, even though the structures are inspired by nature or natural elements, a direct connection which states biomimicry is not found as the word was not defined then. Biomimicry not only affects the performance of the building but also influences the aesthetics of beauty. It brings organic beauty to the structure and creates harmony between the building and nature. But now it’s an important world-changing aspect where more and more architects try to use this technique.

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Gibson, E. (2017). Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Johnson Wax offices like a forest open to the sky. [online] Dezeen. Available at:

Institut Du Monde Arabe (2016). Architecture. [online] Institut du monde arabe. Available at:

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Opera di Santa Maria Del Fiore (n.d.). The Brunelleschi Dome | The Opera del Duomo di Florence. [online] Available at:

Parametric House. (n.d.). Biomimicry Architecture – Esplanade theatre. [online] Available at:

Parikh, S. (2021). Brunelleschi’s Dome by Filippo Brunelleschi: Revolutionalizing architecture and construction. [online] RTF | Rethinking the Future. Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2024].

Scholarworks@uark, S. and Hammond, V. (2024). Utilising Biomimicry to Design Sustainable Architecture Utilising Biomimicry to Design Sustainable Architecture. [online] Available at:

SFT (2019). Discovering the Sagrada Familia: the crossing room. [online] Sagrada Familia Tours – Best tour experience in Barcelona. Available at:

Sustainable Design & Materials. (n.d.). Sustainable Design & Materials: Biomimicry Explored. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2024]. (n.d.). What is Biomimetic Design in Architecture & Its 12 Best Applications. [online] Available at:



Dana Mohamed Ali is a passionate architect and writer with a keen interest in sustainable vernacular design and urban planning. She believes in the power of architecture to positively impact communities and enjoy exploring innovative solutions, blending modern and traditional design approaches, through her writing.