Biomimicry and architecture

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I was really interested in the idea of biomimicry in a previous Building post and thought I would investigate further.

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Burke Brise Soleil, Milwaukee

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Cactus building, Qatar

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Eastgate Centre, Harare

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Bullet train, iwalk.jp on Flickr

1. The Burke Brise Soleil at the Milwaukee Art Museum is a moveable, wing-like sunscreen that rests on top of the museum’s Windhover Hall. It opens and closes throughout the day like the wings of a butterfly.

2. The design for this government building in Qatar draws on cacti’s ability to survive desert conditions. The structure has hundreds of individual sunshades that can be opened and closed in response to the changing intensity of the sun throughout the day and the year.

3. The Eastgate Centre in Harare was built in the 1990s. It has no conventional air conditioning or heating, but is entirely dependent on passive cooling. This is the same principle that regulates temperature in termite mounds.

4. The designers of the Japanese bullet train used biomimicry. Owl feathers helped solve the problem of how to combine quickly with quietly, whilst the beak of the kingfisher inspired the nose cone which enables the trains to exit tunnels without sonic booms.

Ask Nature is, in their own words, ‘the online inspiration source for the biomimicry community.’ There’s lots of good  information, but what I found most interesting was the biomimicry taxonomy. This is ‘a list of challenges that organisms face.’ And ‘by learning how organisms meet those challenges, we can learn how to solve our own design challenges.’

The site tutorial explains it well. If you’re interested in making wind turbines more efficient then it’s worth looking at:

a. Wingtip feathers increase aerodynamic efficiency: flying birds
b. Flippers provide lift, reduce drag: humpback whale
c. Energy boost from vortices: bull trout

Or applying the lessons on how porcupine quills resist buckling to man-made structures; or how loons (birds) are able to generate a net gain of water with the ingestion of sea water; or how conifers protect their trunks from mechanical damage and insect attack by secreting resin.

All fascinating stuff.

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7 Responses to “Biomimicry and architecture”

  1. Stephen Bird Says:

    A bit of a tangent, but see also Inhabitat’s coverage of the fibre optic Seed Cathedral at the UK pavillion for the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Blurring lines between natural and built environments.

    http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/04/05/construction-complete-on-the-uks-stunning-seed-cathedral/

  2. Benedikte Ranum Says:

    Thanks for that link, Stephen. I love the close-up shots of the seeds inside the filaments.

  3. edward04 Says:

    This is a great blog, love it, fascinating examples of how science can mimic nature and transform it into art. A triadic concept, I guess. All I have to do now is to follow your links….;)

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