Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture

Michael Pawlyn is one of many innovators who has captured my attention recently. Biomimicry is beyond intriguing, with an extensive history of successes, and a plethora of ideas based on it shaping our future at this moment.

Nature is the world’s greatest architect, and always will be. As time passes we are learning that to mimic it will be our greatest means of innovation to better our own cities, and our own lives. Furthermore, mimicking nature through architecture and engineering will be the method we use to protect nature itself, through sustainable design and material research. It becomes cyclical, intriguingly unique and a beautiful amalgamation of the natural and fabricated world.

Arguably, the most well known example of success in biomimicry is the invention of Velcro, by Swiss engineer George de Mestral in the 1960’s. Mestral observed burdock burrs under a microscope after a trip in the Alps, where he noticed many of them attached to his dog’s fur and his own socks. Discovering the tiny hooks on each spoke of each burr that allows them to attach to soft material with ease, he mimicked this in Velcro, producing one of our most used and versatile materials.


Photographers: Scott Camazine; Custom Medical Stock Photo

Specifically within the field of architecture, Pawlyn’s brilliant examples are only a few of the many examples of biomimetic design. Researching on biomimicry in architecture reveals that it is most commonly integrated into architects’ work with

  • materials
  • structural soundness
  • mechanisms for recycling waste
  • mechanisms for efficient use of light and ventilation
  • modular structures (often mimicking cells)
  • protection (waterproofing, earthquake proofing).

Pawlyn’s words excite me about the future of biomimetic design, sustainability and innovation. I look forward to learning more about using nature’s architecture within my own, working with the environment and with others who have the same drive to use their architectural education for the a cleaner, greener world.


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