Biomimicry: Solutions for the Built Environment

In 2005 we first taught a studio about biomimicry and architecture at the University of New Mexico school of Architecture we taught a graduate course again in 2008 at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture titled:  Investigations in Performative Biomimicry.  Both studios yielded very interesting results.  The lens of biomimicry can yield sustainable outcomes in the field of Architecture.   The general idea is if you look at anything in nature that is native to a particular location you can learn its survival techniques for that specific climate and you can mimic them architecturally to create something that is more harmonious in a given local – giving you ideas you might not have thought of otherwise.

Sunflowers track the sun to maximize solar gain

The notion of a vernacular architecture has commonly been derived from an idiomatic, regionally specific reading of building practices and habitation.  Broadening this reading of the vernacular, the performative characteristics of local species and ecosystems also provide a compelling indigenous ‘language’, a Natural Vernacular, which can be deployed to challenge the existing, sometimes staid design pedagogies around sustainable design.  In our courses, students explored this architectural potential, a design logic grounded in regional natural systems research and yielded very innovative results.

Horny Toads are covered with black horns, allowing them to warm up quicker in the winter due to the increased surface area and dark coloring.

Nature was mined for its Performative, rather than simply formal, characteristics and how they might inspire a broader range of systemic thinking in architecture.  We posited that the patterns and principles of nature represent not just evolutionary outcomes but fundamental strategies for the dynamic responsive systems of life.  To that end, transpositions from nature to architecture had to operate above the level of mere form making, as the intent of the studios was to marry pattern with operative method.

To follow up on this post Ed Richardson served as a panelist at SXSW Eco this year where the discussion focused on topics of Biomimicry and design the presentation can be found here.  Also, additional blog posts along these lines can be found here.

Click here to see an article written about these studios.


About clarkrichardson

Clark Richardson Architects practice design with the goal of creating contemporary architectural experiences through form, sustainability and detail. We specialize in green building, sustainable residential and commercial design and have architectural studios in Santa Fe and Austin and a design studio New Orleans.
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