Biomimcry and Architecture

In the same school of thought as biophilia, biomimcry (from bios meaning life and mimesis meaning to imitate) is a new science that studies nature, its models, systems, processes and elements and then imitates or takes creative inspiration form them to solve human problems sustainably (Benyus, 1997).


Biomimicry provides an approach to look at the attributes of nature and natural systems and tries to understand it. Through greater understanding, biomimicry argues, we can learn how to ‘do’ like nature does. For example, nature has been first to find ways to survive in extremely hot or cold locations and to self regulate. By looking at nature, these natural techniques can be adopted by humans.

Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in action from TEDGlobal 2009

Biomimcry requires biologists at the design table to help define the function and build the bridge between the biologist and the designer. Integrating nature into architecture can be done in several ways

  • Nature as model: Building as organism
  • Nature as measure: Regenerative, closed loop systems
  • Nature as mentor: take inspiration from ecosystems

Biomimicry addressed the increasing issue of nature-deficit disorder (Louv, 2005) where people are becoming more and more disconnected with nature. Connecting people to nature, encouraging people to get outside and to learn from nature is key to human health and wellbeing. For tens of thousands of years of human history, children have spent most of their lives outside.. There have to be profound impacts on emotional, physical and spiritual health when that changes”  (Louv, 2005)

VanDusen Vistor Centre
Architecture firm Perkins + Wills designed the Van Dusen Vistor Centre as inspired by the form of an orchid. It is an example of biomimcry in translating organic form, the sinuous quality and taking the concept beyond technical proficiency.

Inspired by the form of a native orchid leaf, the new state-of-the-art Visitor Centre creates a landmark facility that re-connects people to the environmental issues of the 21st Century including water and energy conservation, topics of re-use and recycling, the aesthetic value of our native plant ecology, further concepts in sustainable building and design. The project is designed to exceed LEED Platinum, and is registered for the Cascadia Green Building Council’s Living Building Challenge (LBC) 2.0.

Landscape Architects: Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture Inc. in collaboration with Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Landscape Architect
Project name: VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Design Firm: Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture Inc
Client: VanDusen Botanical Garden
Completed: 2011
Area: Visitor Centre and Site Restoration – 4.2 acres
Roof area: Living Roof – 1,486m2; Blue Roof – 371m2
Budget: $21.9 million CAD
Sustainability target: Leed-NC® Platinum, Living Building Challenge 2.1

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Source: Janine Benyus – Biomimicry 1997; Richard Louv – Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder, 2005; Landezine website, Perkins + Wills

2 thoughts on “Biomimcry and Architecture

  1. Pingback: Biophilic Design | Energy Systems & Sustainable Living

  2. Pingback: Biophilic Design | Energy Systems & Sustainable Living

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s