Mimicking a Process within Nature versus Mimicking a Shape from Nature
Building a city’s infrastructure, such as bridges, highways and roads is very important. Not only does it involve a relatively lengthy process, but it also requires state of the art technology and machinery for building, together with a fairly large financial commitment. Even though, man had a natural instinct of using nature as an inspiration for their shelters, nowadays we are blinded by perhaps some less efficient solutions and materials.
Pouring concrete can be a tedious process and when it comes to building a major bridge, it is a stressful and very specific process that needs to be followed. The concrete needs to be poured fast and with no interruption between shipments, as well as at large heights.
What if this process could be more efficient and environmentally friendly?
There surely must be a method we could ‘steal’ from nature. After all, there are plenty of organisms that grow their shell or develop their ‘home’ through efficient processes.
As mentioned at the beginning, nature is not very keen in wasting materials and as Michael Pawlyn quotes Julian Vincent, within nature “materials are expensive and shape is cheap” .
Bees build their shelter with wax they produce in such a manner that all the space is utilised to its maximum potential. The hexagonal shape is very convenient to ‘stack up’ since it is a fairly rigid structure and it also allows for no space to be wasted.
Another example is the shell of a water creature, created through the layering of the substance until it covers the organism.
Furthermore, consider “sponges such as Euplectella aspergillum” which are “fabricating silica skeletons excreted underwater at low temperatures, using enzymes and water-borne minerals” .
As an example of a ‘living’ façade, more specifically kinetic architecture one could look at the Al Bahr Towers. Even though these facades do not filter surrounding polluting elements or create a cyclical environment, they were designed with great potential in mind.
By mimicking the shape and movement of a flower, the main concept of the design was to incorporate local designs into a moving façade that would have as a priority shading of the inner spaces. The floral geometric pattern is inspired from “the concept of adaptive flowers and the “mashrabiya” – a wooden lattice shading screen, which are traditionally used to achieve privacy whilst reducing glare and solar gain”  would allow the individual ‘petals’ of the façade to contract or stretch depending on whether they are needed for shading the interior spaces or not, based on the time of the day, therefore on sun orientation.
With “a contemporary design, using state of the art technology combined with consideration of the region’s architectural heritage”  the architect manage to incorporate a smart façade that would provide shade and therefore fulfil the ultimate goal of energy efficiency through saving of resources.
“Aedas fused the principles of bio-inspiration, regional architecture, and performance oriented technology with a […] geometric composition.”  in order to provide the client with a well-balanced and fully rounded project.
The proposal was based not only on aesthetics, but also on functionality and energy efficiency. In this case biomimicry helped the design not only in an aesthetic manner, but also by providing an efficient shading solution.
In contrast to the Al Bahr Tower project, The Tulip Multipurpose Bridge project in Amsterdam, by architects Michael Labory and Bertrand Schippan, takes aesthetical inspiration from nature. In the desire to represent the country’s signature flower: the tulip , the project mimics the shape of the famous flower and portrays it through a bridge for the capital.
The aim of the architects was to create a pedestrian bridge that would represent the country, hence the tulip shape, and also to portray the dynamic and multicultural life within the capital, therefore, this multifunctional bridge spanning across one of Amsterdam’s canals with “the role of crossing point between one bank and another unite to the function of clustering people at events, creating public space on the river”  was created.
In order to declare a project as biomimetic, it needs to perform both aesthetically and environmentally, thus, only by mimicking the shape of a tulip with the purpose of a local legacy, is perhaps not enough for it to be considered biomimicry.
This is a guest post written by Timea-Laura Tifan.
Timea is an architecture student with passion for the environment. You could say she is an ‘architect who gives a plant’. Throughout her studies, she incorporates nature within her design and strives for a sustainable built environment.
She is excited about nature inclusive architecture and in her free time she runs her own blog. With her roots being in beautiful Romania, she incorporates natural traditional design from home into sustainable solutions for dense urban fabrics.