Abstraction of good design from nature*
For millions of years nature has been developing strategies for wound-healing, growth, deployment, and self-organization. From this we can assume that intelligent, efficient and smart strategies must have evolved from this. We are interested in looking at nature and its potential models in which to emulate. There have been successful examples exercising this transfer of principle from the natural to the human-made, including the Lotus effect, Mercedes-Benz Bionic and the Fin Ray Effect. More recent examples include CNSILK by the Mediated Matters Group at MIT, co-lead by Neri Oxman, known for his construction of woven habitats inspired by silkworm cocoons and Achim Menges and his group's study on the pine cone as an example for responsive and adaptive material systems for facades.
Nature does not create a blueprint ('bauplan') or an image of the outcome contrary to our technologized world. In this realm we first think up ideas then convert them to detailed drawings and working steps. Only later can we start implementing them. Nature starts its process without premeditation. We look to create a symbiosis between these two domains. Let us imagine: we start to grow a house as we build it. We design the process, but do not know the final outcome. The building shapes and adapts to the environment as it grows. It self-organizes itself when inhabitants move in to co-inhabit the structure. The house's basic physiognomy will stay the same, but the façade potentially adapts to environmental alterations. Through natures' unpredictable dispersal of air, water and light, the building can be continuously rendered anew.
We can also consider this vision in light of how 'material' is created in both the realm of nature and human production. Nature creates material within the environment it is subject. Conversely, human production of material generally requires a large quantity of energy and heat. Even recycling processes involve great demands on resources and temperature. It is a wonder that we can ever consider our production efforts to be intelligent and/or sustainable. We search for another way to produce material goods.
We believe that we can learn and abstract good design from nature in order to create more economic, more ecological and inspiring buildings. We look for emerging technologies and natural systems that will aid us in discovery.
We venture out to research, 'Growing As Building.'
Barbara Imhof, 3. August 2013
*a definition for Biomimetics from the Centre of Biomimetics in Reading, UK