‘We borrow from nature the space upon which we build’ – Tadao Ando.

Man, how much ever modern, is deeply tied with nature. Even in contemporary and technology-driven buildings, he finds ways to have greenery around him. Yet, these buildings have created a physical barrier between man and nature, and also, between man and other life forms. But he has realized the importance of nature around, and its consequences of not having it around. Architecture is a part of nature with a man-made environment. To combine architecture and nature, these are the ten ways.

1. Biomimetic Architecture

Biomimetic architecture is mimicking the systems and processes of nature, i.e., plants, animals, and other life forms. Nature always has solutions to adapt to the environment and the changes occurring due to climate change. It also has solutions to survive in the most extreme climates. Architects and designers have been greatly inspired by the mechanism that every plant, animal, and other life forms possess within them to adapt to their surroundings. Mimicking their mechanisms through technology and using it in designing structures is a way to combine architecture and nature for the building to adapt to the environment.

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Eastgate center, inspired by Termites_© www.livinspaces.netls-tvwatch-how-the-eastgate-center-in-zimbabwe-cool
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Eastgate center, inspired by Termites © www.livinspaces.net

2. Biomorphic Architecture

Taking inspiration for the design from shapes found in nature is known as biomorphic architecture. The shapes are inspired either directly from trees, leaves, animals, birds, etc., or in abstract form. Nature-inspired forms in architecture bring users close to the natural world. Nowadays, many architects use the concept of biomorphism in their designs.

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Olympic stadium Beijing, inspired by birds nest_© Iwan Baan
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Aqua Tower, inspired by striated limestone outcroppings of the Great Lakes area_© Steve Hall

3. Open Spaces And Landscape Design

Having open spaces and landscape areas in combination with built spaces allow users to live in constant relation with nature. Architecture and nature coexisting with each other induces positivity and a fresh mood in people, and minimizes the environmental damage on a larger scale.

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Prestige University, Indore_© Sanjay Puri Architects
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Prestige University, Indore_© Sanjay Puri Architects
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Design coexisting with nature, Guest house in Kyoto by B.L.U.E. Architecture Design Studio_© Toshiyuk

4. Use Of Natural Materials

Using materials obtained from nature in raw form or the least refined form is one of the great approaches to combine architecture and nature. We come in direct contact with the spatial materials daily. So the use of natural materials like wood, clay, mud, stone, bamboo, etc., builds a natural atmosphere in the space and imparts the essence of the forest. Also, choosing a color palette that consists of colors found in nature like earthy, shades of grays, blue, brown, earthy green, and rusty shade creates an atmosphere of harmony between self and nature.

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Use of mud and wood and nature-inspired color palette_© www.pinterest.com
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Mud house at Mudavanmugal_© The Times of India

5. By Using The Five Elements Of Nature

When there is a presence of the five elements of nature around us, i.e., earth, water, fire, air, and space, we feel a stronger connection with nature. Our human bodies, too, are made with these five elements, and having it in spatial form around, the elements of our body and elements of nature synchronize with each other. In architectural space, earth refers to the built form made from earthy materials, water refers to the water bodies on the site, fire refers to the light energy obtained from the sun, air refers to airflow throughout the site-  that can be achieved by having maximum trees on site, and space refers to the connection between built and open spaces.

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Water body near the structure, Water Cherry House_© Frédéric Ducout
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Connection between built and open spaces, sunrays entering in the structure – Water Cherry House_©Frédéric D

6. Animals-Birds-Other Species Friendly Architecture

When we say combining architecture and nature, we think about materials, landscape, and spaces inhabited by humans. But amid this, we forget that we also share our existence with thousands of other life forms. Man, right from the beginning, lived amongst this vast number of life forms. But over the centuries, we have created a separation between us and them through our high-tech designs and as a dire need for seclusion. It has not only created a detachment between ‘us and them’ but also between us as a ‘human’ and us as a ‘species just like them’. Yet, there are a few structures that have been designed thoughtfully for both humans and other life forms to reside in.

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Design considering birds, The orange cube_© Maria Gonsalez
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Façade of The orange cube_© Roland Halbe
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Cotswolds eco-housing welcomes wildlife- roof has flowers to attract butterflies and insects, walls with timber shingles provide shelter for insects, overhanging eaves for birds © www.standard.co.uk

7. Minimalism In Design

In Japanese tradition, there is a philosophy called wabi-sabi that can be used to combine architecture and nature. In this, wabi means living alone in nature, simplicity, imperfection, minimalism, and sabi means celebrating the beauty of ageing and wear, rustic, and accepting the natural cycle of life-decay-death. In architectural space, simple and minimalistic design without unnecessary lines and forms, and natural materials that are allowed to age can create an environment that will keep users more connected to nature.

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Minimal interiors, Modern Ryokan Kishi Ke_© Sukeyasu yamaguchi
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Wabi house by Tadao Ando_© Edmund Sumner

8. Views and Interior elements

Humans tend to feel connected to nature even by having the views of it. Having views through the windows of natural elements like trees, mountains, rivers, etc., and having daylight inside the structure and access to sunlight throughout the day is a way where architecture and nature can be combined. In the interiors, elements like natural stones can be used as decorative elements and sculptures, and planters can be used for indoor gardens.

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Views of Central Park from the buildings around_© blog.akbartravels.comtop-6-things-need-know-central-park
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Plants and access to sunlight inside the structure, Tartu Nature House_© Jaan Sokk

9. By Keeping The Environment Clean

Combining architecture and nature is not only about the designing of spatial elements but also about the impact caused by architecture on the environment on a larger scale. The waste generated during the construction and after the building is built should be minimum, and the entire process should be carefully planned. What we borrow from nature, we must try to give it back in the least refined form to reduce the harmful impact on the environment.

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©C R Sasikumar

10. Sustainable Techniques In Design

Methods like the use of solar panels, rain-water harvesting systems, natural heating and cooling systems, garbage, and sewage treatment systems, provide necessary resources to the users of the structure and also reduce the impact on the environment on a larger scale. It also creates awareness within the users of their responsibility towards nature.

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Solar panels on walls, Nursery +E_©Eibe Sönnecken

Pranjali is a passionate artist and an architect who loves to blend her designs with nature. She designs meticulously and is always exploring the impact of architectural spaces on user's mind and body. You will find her lost in travelling, daydreams, books, and also on mountain trails.