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Architecture Firms that Specialize in

Biomimicry Research
Sun, 2013/03/24 - 16:46 nhoeller

The following query by Ali Malmberg on LinkedIn led to an
extensive list of suggestions.
Just figured I'd ask because I am very curious, does anyone
know of Architecture/Design firms that specialize in
Biomimicry research? I just got my BFA in Interior Design at
Syracuse University and I am relocating to the Bay Area in
May. I am very interested in Biomimicry related to Interior
Design/Architecture Firms.

Margo Farnsworth Check out HOK - specifically

Thomas Knittel within that group.

larry shaitelman there is a book called 'New Organic

Architecture - The Breaking Wave' by david pearson U of
California press.

David Parr In the UK, Exploration Architecture seems

like the only one who's doing it in a concentrated way.

Josh Stack A wonderful Biomimicry alum that I met

awhile back, Deborah Coburn, specialized in biomimicry and
interior design -

Lina Constantinovici Terrapin Bright Green in New York

has made considerable contributions, both on the
application and on the research side (you can find several
white papers on their site).

Josh Stack Ali, since you're still local (NYC), talking

with Adiel Gavish, who's leading BiomimicryNYC, would be a
great idea. Adiel is doing fantastic stuff in biomimicry

Richard James
MacCowan ARUP, HOK, AECOM and Exploration in the UK
are the one's that spring to mind. It does seem that some
companies keep their biomimetic practices in the
background. It wouldn't hurt for you to look at C2C and
other future-proofing initiatives.

Gil Burban In France, X-tu is the only Architectural

Firm who try to do it with an R&D departement.

Stephan Hoornaert The only one I know is Michael

Pawlyn from the Exploration Architecture Ltd in UK.

Arosha Gamage Design Studio is a small interior/

Architecture firm established in Sri Lanka that tries to
incorporate biomimicry in the design process. Eco house
was designed according to biomimicry theoretical
framework as part an partial of my PhD research.

DMITRIJ BURAKEVIC Hello comrades. Grimshaw

Architects in collaboration with M. Pawlyn.

Ernst-Jan Mul Have a look at the Netherlands based

duo Ro&Ad as well. They've won prices with their
biomimicry/c2c based architecture. They've also worked on
interior concepts.

Simon Schleicher KnippersHelbig+ITKE (Institute of

Building Structures and Structural Design, University of
Stuttgart) see our work on theFlectofin.

Biomimicry: Potential for the use
of Biomimicry in Architectural
Design (Distinction)

Bios Life
Mimesis Imitation

My BArch dissertation titled, Biomimicry: Potential for the use of Biomimicry in Architectural
Design, investigated sustainability in design through the process of biomimicry and was awarded a
distinction. Through historical research, analysis of texts, site visits and interviews with leading
architects in this field, I was able to present my research and findings on a subject in parallel with my
BArch studio work. These techniques allowed me to develop informed and educated conclusions on
the potential use of biomimicry in sustainable architectural design.
The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis
by using the same thinking that created the situation

Albert Einstein


Throughout the BArch course I have taken my architectural

research into the field of biomimicry and sustainable
development. Natural systems provide many answers to
human problems, many of which have resulted in the
damage caused to the environment in which we live. Global
warming and climate change are of major concern in todays
world due to carbon emissions and the exploitation of
natural resources. Sustainability in buildings has become a
pivotal focus of architecture over the past few decades as
estimates suggest that up to 50% of all carbon emissions
come from the built environment. As architects we have a
role and responsibility to seek more sustainable methods of
Biomimicry is a concept that looks to nature as a model,
measure and mentor, taking inspiration from its forms,
processes and systems in order to create more sustainable
architectural design. By emulating 3.8 billion years of well-

adapted technology, biomimicry can help to design

environmentally sensitive buildings that can exist in
harmony with nature.
This text will look at the potential for biomimicry in
architectural design. I will use key texts in the subject to aid
my research and findings. By looking at examples, built and
speculative, and interviewing industry professionals in the
subject field I will present a series of case studies. These
case studies will reflect the process of biomimicry in
architectural practice and provide a basis for my findings.
These techniques will allow me to develop informed and
educated conclusions on the potential use of biomimicry in
sustainable architectural design.

Biomimicry Potential for the use of Biomimicry in

Architectural Design
I would like to thank Jerry Tate of Jerry Tate Architects and
Michael Pawlyn of Exploration Architecture for their help
with this dissertation.
you should probably learn what there is to learn about kieran
timberlake's research and the 'smart wrap' that they showed at cooperhewitt.
most of herzog demeuron's projects over the past decade have
included explorations of skin as a major factor in the design. the book
'natural history' may be a help - or a visit to the exhibit of their work
that's touring around. the tables are strewn with their experiments in
developing the surface materials. i saw it at the nai in rotterdam in the
spring and i think it's at the tate now. (or was recently: see the image
also, a lot of the brownell's 'transmaterial' emails that i've gotten have
to do with things that happen at the skin of a building: related to
temperature, light, pressure, etc. if you can find an archive of those
and find the ones that pertain...
""intrigued by building skins that function as human skin (blushing buildings), animal skins (camo structures)""
ecojy, check out it also gives you links to greg lynn`s site.
hope that was useful.
I've recommended it several times on archinect before, but one of the classic books on the subject is D'Arcy
Wentworth Thompson's "On Growth and Form" (published 1917), explaining the mathematics behind engineering and
cellular growth, and introducing topological transformations as a way to understand the similarity of different species.
It is, of course, very mathematic and does not go into zoomorphism, which I think a "blushing building" is. Where

blushing might fill a social function for humans, there is neither cause nor effect for a building that imitates this
I recently started reading Dennis Dollens' "Digital-Botanic Architecture": ISBN 0-930829-54-9 $17 Retail and am
thoroughly impressed. The XFrog experiments are not the greatest, but the contents of the book has helped to
broaden my first year of core in SCI-Arc's "X" program with Hernan Diaz Alonso, Elena Manferdini, Marcelo Spina and
Peter Testa.
Of note was a fantastic plate #2 of Sullivan's "System of Architectural Ornament". Maybe I'm mistaken, but Sullivan
was not even talked about in our program and this plate was essentially a duplicate of one of our first exercises in
understanding nature as it relates to architecture.
i second a-f, "on growth and form" is very, very, very interesting and will take you to new places,,,
also,, look at neri oxman's work., albeit highly formalistic...
_urb_ here on archinect had an interesting piece on geo-mimicry,, it might be helpful to see what he talks about, in
terms of "mimicry" and "design".. >>


Structuring Biomimicry, Improving Buildings Resiliency

August 22, 2012

By Wilfredo Mendez Vazquez

The same way Einstein assumes the speed of light to be

a constant of reference for his Theory of Relativity, the
philosophy of biomimicry assumes Nature as a constant
of reference to a performance-based beauty for design.

Imitating nature has become a meaningful approach for

contemporary architects and design futurists to the built
environment, especially for those who foster a future that
doesnt compete with nature but coexist with it. At the light
of recent natural disasters around the world, especially
those geologically associated such as tsunamis and
earthquakes, which have proven its destruction power
over the current built environment; architects and
structural engineers have found in biomimicry an
ecological approach in order to improve future buildings
disaster resilience.

Bio-Structural Analogues in Architecture, by the

Singaporean architect Joseph Lim (2009) emphasize that
central to the idea of a design strategy in developing the
architectural concept, is a form of technological thinking
which drew inspiration from other forms of knowledge.

Scientific thinking on architecture has leaded a bottom-up

approach for resilient structures design. As wrote by the
biologist DArcy W. Thompson, every form in Nature is
essentially the product of the diagram of forces acting on
it or which have acted on it. That technological feature of
the living structures proves to be a resilient parameter of
its morphology, basically because its tessellation grows in
intrinsic relationship with the ecosystem and its natural
Present built structures are unresponsive to the Earth
dynamics and arent completely adapted to the
ecosystem flows of forces. This fact leads to an important
concern of the global building industry about its resiliency
capacity toward the future and its potential dangers by
natural hazards. Geological associated hazards have
caught great attention by the design community at
important forums throughout the world. Recent major
earthquakes throughout the world have proven the
inefficiency of the current building paradigm and have
warned building professionals to adapt structures in order

to withstand future seismic events. Principles of a

BioTectonic Culture master degree thesis takes Puerto
Rico as a laboratory for the design of biomimicry-driven
structures made of reinforced concrete in order to improve
its resilient output.

Puerto Rico is a great case study model due to the active

seismic faults around the island, the predominance of
heavy materials for construction such as concrete and
masonry, some unsustainable approach for structures
construction and its dangerous vulnerability due to the
existence of great percentage of structures designed and
constructed following poor seismic regulations or even
built without professional assistance. Puerto Rico has a
particular environment, it is located at the boundary of two

tectonic plates (the Caribbean plate and the North

American plate) having the potential to produce a major
earthquake with magnitude 8.0 or greater. In fact,
according to the US Geological Service (USGS), at least
four major earthquakes have been affected the island until
1918. Besides, Puerto Rico vulnerability combines
dangerously with the fact that those buildings designed
before the implementation of the 1987 Puerto Rico
Building Code may be considered as inadequate to resist
earthquakes events. Under this premise approximately
70%~80% of existing structures could be under risk.
Although present construction at the island includes all
required seismic codes, there are still some designconstruction principles that can be optimized in order to
improve the building adaptation to a seismic event.
Besides, concrete structures in Puerto Rico needs to
adapt congruently to the current ecological trends in order
to reduce pollution associated with cement fabrication.
For the thesis proposal, such kind of resiliency standard
was achieved focusing on a structural design concept

inspired by the performance and material efficiency of a

state of the art static model bio-structure: the human
The research proposal aims to produce a concrete
structure driven by the natural flow of the force generated
by an earthquake within the material. Such kind of desired
force-driven form founds great resemblance with organic
bones. The human body and its skeleton adapts
according to function and loads that are normally
encountered. Because of these loads, for instance, femur
bones in legs becomes thicker and bigger than other
bone because it has to carry out about 63 percent of the
body weight. In result, the compact tissue in each
particular bone becomes thicker where it experiments
greater loads, and decrease density according to loads
declining. That technological feature translates each
bones diagram of force into its morphology.
The human femur, the longest and strongest skeleton
bone, provides optimum technology parameters for the
design of structures located in seismic zones. The femurs

hollow shaft design provides maximum strength with

minimum weight, ideal design features in order to reduce
the seismic intensity on a structure. Using biomimicry
principles, the research achieves the architecture of an
adapted structural system of reinforced concrete capable
to withstand, not only gravity loads, but lateral loads such
as earthquakes loads, in a more efficient way than a
conventional structure.
As a matter of fact, reinforced concrete was conceived
emulating a bone structural properties where the collagen
provides tension resistance such as steel bars, and
mineral provides resistance to compression such as
concrete. The type of loads which experiments the femur
are very similar to those in typical beams and columns:
tension, compression and bending. Then, the biostructural parameters selected from the femur includes
the mid-diaphysis (middle-cross section) geometrical
properties associated with its maximum stress resistance
value (about 4,000 pounds per square inch); and its
response to mechanical stress, according to the Wolffs

law, which implies that a bones anatomy reflects the

common stresses it encounters. The proposal undertakes
those biological features of the femur bone to extrapolate
morphogenetic parameters to the building structure in
order to improve contextual integration and encourage
better use of concrete.

Based in the bio-tectonic technological features

extrapolated from the femur, the product achieved was a
non-prismatic lightweight components deeply related to

the bending-moment diagram of the typical frames which

is normally generated by the effect of the lateral loads.
Hence, the earthquake typical effect on the frame
becomes a key parameter to its morphology design.
Furthermore, due to the same principles, a lighter frame
was obtained which also represents an achievement
because implies the decline of the earthquake general
intensity on the building. The structure proposal achieves
a force-driven morphology implying some grade of
mechanical resilience, and ecological adaptation.
According to computational analysis, such proposal
becomes highly efficient for seismic vulnerable zones
because the total base shear (earthquake force intensity)
was reduced due to the effect of lateral loads.
Furthermore, the proposed architecture implies a
reduction of concrete use for structures which also means
a reduction of CO2 emissions. This fact becomes very
important considering that concrete is responsible for 7 to
10 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, making it
the third largest contributor to Global Warming after

transportation and power generation. Current trends

indicate that the future of the building industry would be
greatly associated to Nature and the living technologies.
Structuring biomimicry is an effort to provide the buildings
structures with the capacity to be responsive to
environment in real time such as the living structures are.
Furthermore, it is the definition of a novel paradigm which
adapts current inert materials for construction to its
ecosystemic surroundings in order to improve the built
environmental resiliency.

Image: Holgs | Dreamstime


By taking a look around, designers can

find inspiration everywhere particularly
in nature. Nature provides us with an
amazing array of solutions for many
complex problems that we face today
the quest to learn from nature in this way
is biomimicry, andarchitecture can
benefit from this kind of approach.
At times what may seem as simple in
nature can translate to better design
solutions that are more efficient,
sustainable and healthy. Yes, nature is
inspirational but it is also a part of our
world which we can study more deeply
extracting creative solutions that we can
apply today.

Most all designers will benefit from
studying certain aspects of nature. As
buildings now face a whole myriad of
problems that need solutions, it may be in
nature that architects can find some
answers. Here is what Brett Hoverstott
who wrote What Can Architecture Learn
from Nature has to say
Life has had millions of years to finelytune mechanisms and structures (such as
photosynthesis, or spiders silk) that work
better than current technologies, require
less energy and produce no life-unfriendly
waste. The emulation of this technology is

the goal of biomimicry, the art of

innovation inspired by nature. (1)
Already, there exist certain biomimetic
buildings. Take for instance, the Eastgate
Centre which is a shopping centre and
office block. This building was designed
to be ventilated and cooled by entirely
natural means, it was probably the first
building in the world to use natural cooling
to this level of sophistication. (2) The
design inspiration for this architecture was
the indigenous Zimbabwean masonry
and the self-cooling mounds of African
termites. (3)

Nature can teach us about systems,

materials, processes, structures and
aesthetics (just to name a few). By
delving more deeply into how nature
solves problems that we experience
today, we can extract timely solutions and
find new directions for our built
As architects, we can benefit from
biomimicry to make buildings better by
pushing for more natural, integrated,
efficient and healthy solutions. We also
need to take a look at the role aesthetics
plays in nature with the way function
and form so synergistically merge.
Perhaps this is a way for buildings to

harmonize with nature in renewed ways

making built environments more
environmentally sound and healthy for
(1) Holverstott, Brett. What Can Architecture Learn From Nature. GreenBizSite.
September 7, 2008.

(2) Wikipedia Eastgate Centre, Harare.

(3) Doan, Abigail. Green Building in Zimbabwe Modeled After Termite
Mounds. Inhabitat. December 10, 2007.

Here are some research questions that you could

undertake involving "Biomimicry in Architecture".
Can spatial patterns from biomimicry influence
users' behavior and movement?

How could biomimicry in architecture play a vital

role on long term sustainability and energy
Can natural influences and concepts for edifices
be a catalyst for community development?
What would be the basis in determining tested
and sustainable practices in building's efficiency?
How can the connection between artificial and
naturally built environment be insinuated in
modern society?
In terms of experiments, you could perform a research or
survey involving biomimicry in buildings and how the
community around it was influenced. In accordance to
the context of an urban or rural community in a
macroperspective; you could perform researches
technically (architectural styles, patterns and form),
psychologically (users' behavior, focal points) or
environmentally (sustainability, mitigation of climate
change and natural practices)
Biomimicry is a complex topic and you can exponentially
expand it unto different branches or sub-topics. It is not
only apparent on architecture but it belongs to
something much bigger. Hope this helps. Goodluck.

Harry Sorreta already answered much of your question.

In addition, pursue any one architectural/environmental problem:
light / glare
spatial problem
lack of display
color / ambiance
Biologize the problem by identifying its biological equivalents.
Explore how these problems can be solved through biomimicry.