Architecture inspired by Nature

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better

This quote, which has been attributed to Albert Einstein, gives voice to a key notion in today’s rethinking of the world. 

Although the term “biomimicry” is fairly recent, the concept, as has been noted in previous entries, is old. In fact, as early as the primitive age, humans have had to invent and develop tools and functional constructions inspired in nature. Despite all this, it may be said that we have now lost our fusion with and respect towards nature. If we think about the current environmental crisis, we inevitably reach the conclusion that this is all the consequence of our own actions. Architecture has evolved substantially in recent years and decades, but despite this fact, the vast majority of building projects being undertaken at the moment are hardly any different to those of the last 200 years. These new techniques are, for most people, a mere architectural curiosity or else an example of artistic creativity, still a long distance from most individuals’ daily lives. Using traditional techniques is not inherently a bad thing, but the truth is that the building methods which originate in the Industrial Era are especially detrimental to life on earth. These are efficient buildings, but they are not effective: they reduce the need for human effort while burdening the rest of nature with this same effort. 

Such reflections, then, lead us to rethink what it is to practice architecture in a world where it is imperative to act in a sustainable and responsible manner. The architect, more than ever before, must develop a critical conscience and overall must prove that only by employing a sustainable architecture, which is inspired by nature’s efficient mechanisms, can we rebuild primitive man’s deep-rooted connection to nature. In architectural terms, “biomimetic thinking” refers to exhaustive research into biological mechanisms, which enrich our concept of sustainability. The objective? To reestablish all the workings and solutions that nature offers us in order to increase humanity’s wellbeing. 

Imagine a building like a tree and a city like a forest

wrote Michael Braungart, a chemist, and William McDonough, an architect, in their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002), a fundamental work for all those who wish to be part of a new industrial revolution based on economic prosperity, social equality and intelligence. The likenesses between buildings and living beings are more abundant than many might realize. The architect must thus bear in mind that the building of the future should look and feel much more like a living organism with regards to its ability to breathe, to sweat, to adapt to external conditions and to the cycle of life. That is to say, it will live and die. So what happens after its “death”? Braungart and McDonough insist on the idea of recycling, repurposing and reinserting materials in a new life cycle. They have stated that the substances which make up living beings will be used to generate new life in the future: likewise, the refuse of a building will not be garbage, but rather will transform into the nutrients necessary for giving life to new products. This is how the architectural notion of biomimicry may still be enriched, which means not only to increase the fruits of our efforts by finding inspiration in nature, but also to question from the outset the value which certain materials, designs and building methods have in relation to a guiding principle of sacred admiration towards our environment. What does this mean? Similar to how nature works, minimizing the need for production materials and energy consumption are two of the key principles that need to be included in biomimetic design.