Biomimicry: Design from Nature to Architecture

Project Details

Student/s: Despoina Papastergiou, Poluxeni Papastergiou

Date: August 29, 2016

The aim of this study research is to develop a first approach to the world of biomimicry, the ways of application, the ability to develop sustainable design, as well as, to answer the question whether it creates new architecture or a new slant on it. At the beginning, an etymological approach of the notion of biomimicry is made. ‘Biomimicry’ is a complex word, composed of the Greek words, “βίος”, which means “life” and the word “μίμηση” which means “mimesis”. Thereafter, among the aims are, the clarification of the differences between ‘biomimicry’ and other terms encountered in the bibliography as synonyms or identical. These terms are ‘bionics’, ‘biomimetics’, ‘bio-morphism’, ‘bio-utilization’, and ‘bio-aid’. The main difference is that biomimicry aims to develop sustainable solutions by mimicking living organism and their technical characteristics, thus becomes the same producer. On the other hand, the other terms refers either to a direct use of the living organisms, either to imitate their characteristics without aiming at sustainable developments. Throughout history, it is being perceived that nature was a source of inspiration for the human race from antiquity until today. Mainly, Leonardo Da Vinci had an important role in the development of the relationship between man and nature during the Renaissance, as well as R. Carson and M. Benyus and Pawlyn in modern times. As a result of this first approach, it is concluded that the objective of biomimicry is sustainability. It’s being an effort to avoid any negative consequences of anthropogenic artifacts, which were valid until today. In architecture, biomimicry is the selection of properties and characteristics of living organisms. Furthermore, their performance is being analyzed through a system of interpretation, in order to be applied in architecture. This theory is based on the fact that architecture and nature have common goals, such as, adapting to environmental changes. Depending on the features that architecture mimics, there are three levels of biomimicry and five dimensions. The levels are: Organism Behavior Ecosystem
The dimensions of biomimicry operate as sub-levels of biomimicry and they can also be applied to each of those levels concerning the form, the material, the structure, the process and the function. There are two methods of applying the principles of biomimicry: From design to nature From nature to design Following the above methods, architecture gets in touch with procedures of emergence, of evolution, of adaptation etc., which have to be integrated into design. Living organisms develop these processes to cope with a constantly changing environment. Following the same analogy, human environment is on a constant change, which means that the need to adapt the architecture becomes more necessary. However, these procedures have been already developed in architecture independently of biomimicry. This is due to the fact that the sociology borrows terms from biology to understand the function of social systems. Because architecture serves social groups, the influence and the application of these procedures were inevitable. Thereafter, a study on some applications of biomimicry is made, in order for it to become more understandable and to evaluate its effectiveness. Biomimicry is a tool of changing the way we live on Earth by using the knowledge that we have gained about nature. In architecture, this change has created an important prospect for future growth and innovation without claiming that architecture had reached a standstill. Nevertheless, on the basis of sustainable development a fertile ground for its development is being created. Finally, an attempt to answer questions is made, such as, whether biomimicry is creating a new architectural style, and if the utter goal of biomimicry is to create a living architecture. At the same time, an effort to identify the concerns arising from the application of biomimicry is also made. Therefore, biomimicry should not be applied uncritically. As Benyus says “We must honor with the humility of the wise the bounds of that natural world and the mystery which lies beyond them, admitting that there is something in the order of being which evidently exceeds all our competence”. To arrive at Frank Gehry who stresses that “Just being an architect is an act of social responsibility. Even the strangest concoctions of our imaginations have to do with humanist values-with people, society and context”.

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