Biomimicry in Architecture - review
As an architect who was central to the team that re-invented horticultural architecture for the Eden Project, Michael Pawlyn is perfectly placed to compile a book on biomimicry, being widely regarded as something of a pioneer in the field.
He begins by defining biomimicry as ‘design inspired by the way functional challenges have been solved in biology’. He paints a picture of biological organisms embodying technologies that have benefitted from a 3.8 billion-year research and development period; in comparison with which, humankind can only feel a degree of humility. He explains that we should see biomimicry as being one of the ‘best sources of solutions that will allow us to create a positive future’ and shift from the industrial to the ecological age.
The book benefits from Pawlyn’s clear and engaging writing style, which is translates complex systems into jargon-free explanations. Where jargon is unavoidable, he helpfully unravels it, such as with the definitions and distinctions between biomimicry and, say, biomorphism - more of a ‘formal and aesthetic expression’ rather than the former which is ‘a functional discipline’.
However, the lack of a more detailed theorising of how biomimicry might connect with modernist and post-modernist architecture may disappoint those looking for a way of placing it in the context of these more conventional movements as a viable solution for the future.
Through several ‘how’ rather than ‘why’-based chapters, Pawlyn explores elements such as hollow tubes, skeletons, exoskeletons, webs/tension structures, pneumatic structures, deployable structures, and how they can be replicated in the built environment. The book explores such problems as how buildings can be powered, how to create zero-waste systems, and, most interestingly, how we can manage water by drawing inspiration from creatures such as the Namibian fog-basking beetle.
The real joy of the book though is the bountiful images which, with nature and architecture placed so well next to one another, make the future of biomimicry seem full of wonder and potential. Pawlyn concedes that biomimicry has yet to capture the imagination of the profession as it has in industrial design for instance, but no doubt any architect or designer who picks up this book will come away wondering why and for how much longer?
To order the book, go to RIBA Bookshops.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- An Introduction to Passive House - review.
- Bill Gething and Katie Puckett - Design for Climate Change.
- Building Revolutions - review.
- Charles Waldheim - Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory.
- FutuREstorative - review.
- How Buildings Work - review.
- Manual of Section - review.
- Mimetic architecture.
Featured articles and news
PCSAs enable clients to employ contractors before the main contract commences. Read our introductory article.
ICE 200 brings together transformative projects from the past 200 years - and the engineers behind them.
Dame Judith Hackitt hosts an industry summit to kick start the second phase of the review.
This article explains the Buildings Regulations completion certificate, what it is, and when its needed.
Graphene has many potential applications, but when will it start being used in civil engineering?
Increasing productivity – now more than ever as we lead up to Brexit – should be the sector’s number one priority in 2018.
Carillion's collapse causes Construction Leadership Council to delay the construction sector deal report.
Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability: international frameworks, national and local guidance.
What will the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) mean for you when they come into force in May?
Business Secretary chairs a new taskforce to monitor and advise on mitigating the impacts of Carillion’s liquidation.
Sir John Armitt is appointed the new chair of the National Infrastructure Commission.
High quality and high density homes - is it what we need or is it storing up trouble?