As the prevalence of digital technologies in architecture has increased, so to has the exploration of advanced geometries and structures. Simultaneously, there has been increased inquiry into the principles demonstrated by natural systems and their application to design. This strain of thinking has been highly influential and particularly productive in the fields of material science and industrial design, which employ techniques of multi-scalar analysis to organisms such as plants in order to deduce their bio-mechanical properties. This has lead to the creation of new materials with unprecedented strength to weight ratios and designs for automobile chassis with greater structural efficiency. In architecture however, there have been many attempts at exploiting biomimetic principles through digital means, but since the field of study has yet to be well defined the results have predominantly been limited to formal simulacra.
State of the Field
A few researchers at various institutions have attempted to move beyond superficial application of natural forms to develop a working methodology that embeds the core principles of natural systems to architectural production. These include Michael Weinstock and George Jerominidis of the EmTech group at the Architectural Association and the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading, Achim Menges of the Institute for Computational Design at Stuttgart University , and Neri Oxman of the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab. Their ambition of creating systems with embedded intelligence and complexity through bottom-up approaches will serve as a foundation for our work.
The ambition of this study is to develop a greater level of instrumentality for the methodology of biomimetic design that has begun to emerge within the discipline. The analysis of natural systems is used as a point of departure from which unique behaviors are culled and re-interpreted through material research. Potential systems for investigation include: plant morphologies, collective intelligence of groups and biological differentiation. We plan to explore these systems through a combination of digital and physical strategies in order to leverage mutually beneficial overlap. By liberating the design process from a traditional top-down, deterministic approach, a method can evolve that allows for the internal multiplicity of hierarchies with robust networks.
The research is structured into three phases:
1. Initial research on three potential natural systems
2. Material research based on a chosen natural system
3. Synthesis of both stages of research in the form of a built artifact such as a component-based
assembly, or envelope.
The ultimate goal of the research is to establish a new performative basis from which to think through architectural problems.