Imagine a train shaped like the beak of a bird. That too, to reduce sound. Because that is what happened to the Shinkansen bullet train. In 1989, this design was implemented to reduce the sound of a train leaving a tunnel. And all of it was possible because of a bird watcher, Eiji Nakatsu.
This process of employing natural elements into architecture is called Biomimicry or Biomimetics, coined by Janine Benyus, an American Natural science writer. This is actually a key subject in architecture. And this technique of copying nature is very effective. Take Sagrada Familia.
Sagrada Familia is the most ambitious project of the renowned Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi. Its construction is still going on after Gaudi started it in 1883. It is estimated to be completed in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi's death. The fascinating thing is, the whole design was inspired by trees.
Gaudi's idea of the cathedral was that it would be a forest that invites prayer. So, the columns have branches that support the weight of the building's roof. To convey the feeling of the forest floor, large colorful windows were installed to let in dappled sunlight.
Biomimicry is of three types. Firstly, the designer can mimic a shape, like the one mentioned above. Secondly, he can mimic a natural process, such as how ants communicate with each other, which has been applied in how electric cars exchange information. And lastly, the whole ecosystem can be copied, especially how it works. This is known as circular economy.
You see, nature does not leave any waste. The by product or "waste" of one step is used as the resource of another. This basically eliminates the need for landfills. Shanghai is in the process of converting into a circular economy. And the city has a solid plan for it.
Nature has the answer to the questions that architects and engineers have been asking for decades. Using the pattern of lotus leaves in building walls so that dirt does not stick to it, arranging windmills according to a school of fish to reduce drag, introducing the design of a tree in a cathedral are all examples of this. As Janine Benyus said, "The answers to our questions are everywhere; we just need to change the lens with which we see the world." So, the most reasonable step forward for us is to bring a biologist to the design table. And, we should be thrilled that nature does not have a copyright.