Nature in architecture

Biomimetic architecture is a type of architecture that looks for sustainability solutions in nature. This approach to architecture is rich in the idea of a sustainable future. It follows a set of principles rather than stylistic choices when the architect is creating the designs.

Architecture has used nature as a source of inspiration for a long amount of time. Before biomimetic architecture, architects would use existing natural elements in their designs; specifically designs that would encompass environments that were man-made. This was believed to be the starting point for biomimetic architecture.

This kind of architectural design believes that the structures made using these principles should remind society to work with nature, rather than against it. Biomimetic architects typically use mad-made solutions with aesthetics inspired by nature to showcase the natural environment, rather than relying on nature’s solutions to answer the problems that we create as a society.

Though biomimetic architecture uses nature as a model for its designs, it is not the same as biomorphic architecture, which incorporates existing natural elements for aesthetic components. Biomimetic architecture looks to nature only as a model, a muse, if you will. Using this muse, they try to create or imitate nature in their designs by applying the ideals and overall look of nature to the structures that they create.

There are examples of biomimetic architecture all over the world. One such example is The Eden Project in Cornwall, England, which was completed in 2001. This design encompasses a series of artificial biomes with domes that are modelled after soap bubbles and pollen grains. The architects that created this piece looked to nature to draw inspiration for the design’s spherical shape.

By using architectural designs that are inspired by nature, not only are we taking another step in understanding the world around us, we’re also opening up the conversation to talk about nature and sustainability with every new structure that is built by a biomimetic architect. The main principle of biomimetic architecture to remember is that biomimetic architecture only uses nature to inform and inspire, rather than incorporating already existing pieces of natural life into a design.

When real, existing nature is used in a design, what we’re looking at is called “living architecture”, and it is another kind of natural architecture, though it has different principles to biomimetic architecture.

Living architecture requires that the architect not only uses nature as part of the design but changes it to fit the design as required. The very first example of living architecture was pioneered back in 1914, with the “Living Chair”, which was a chair shaped entirely by living trees as they grew from seedlings. Much larger designs that use nature in this way exist today, such as the more advanced version of a “tree house” wherein the tree’s trunk and branches are hollowed out to create a living space, rather than a design being built between the trees branches, as is custom for children. As you can see, there is a large difference in the various ways we use nature in architecture.

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Matthew Okafor