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Building design – nature or nurture?

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Architects are sometimes overlooked as being a separate sub-species within the world of construction.  That’s a pity, because building starts with architects and without the latter we would not have the former.  Moreover, the very best architects bring natural, creative flair to their designs…

We borrow from nature the space upon which we build.” This quotation, from 2012, is by Tadao Ando, the famous, self-taught Japanese architect.  The legendary Frank Lloyd-Wright said that his profession is the “mother art” and it’s true that humans have used nature’s designs to great effect, with the Kaufman House also known as “Falling Water” being probably the most famous.  Perhaps one of the best examples of the influence of nature is that of the Swiss engineer, George de Mestral, who was persistently irritated that burrs from plants would catch and stick to his clothes and to his dog’s fur when he was taking the latter for a walk.  Having stuck some of these burrs under his microscope, he went on to patent Velcro in 1951.

In fact, construction ideas have been drawn from nature for many years. For example, these range from La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the interior of which is inspired by the idea of a forest that invites prayer, to the Eden Project in Cornwall, housed in a domed building inspired by the shape of soap bubbles, while inside the building the education centre mimics the Fibonacci spiral pattern found in natural objects such as pinecones, pineapples, sunflowers and snail shells.

Further afield, Toyo Ito drew inspiration for his design for The National Taichung Theater, Taiwan, from the formation of rocks, caves and “the transience of water” (see what I mean about “creative flair”?).  Elsewhere, in Hamburg, the BIQ building incorporates microalgae into its design. And much more recently, scientists have gone to the seafood shells for inspiration to enhance the strength of 3D-printed concrete. A team from Melbourne’s RMIT University has devised a twisting pattern, based on the internal structure of a lobster’s shell and combined with a special concrete mix enhanced with steel fibres.  The result?  The 3D-printed structures produced were stronger, more efficient and more sustainable than concrete produced in a traditional manner.

It should be noted that you don’t have to go to Taiwan or Hamburg for great architecture.  We have a rich tradition of developing talented architects in Scotland and throughout the UK.  And of course, should you need to recruit one, you know who to call…

Sarah Hobson,  Peace Recruitment

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