Week 02: Biomimicry as a Catalyst for Efficient Design

“You could look at nature as being like a catalogue of products”

– Michael Pawlyn


Case Study 02: 3D Printed Plant Cell Chair

Design by Lilian van Daal

Image courtesy of Dezeen

This week’s case study is a 3D printed chair inspired by the structures of plant cells. The influence of this biomimetic design goes beyond the aesthetic appeal of natural patterns and forms, and actually eliminates the need for upholstery, framing, and adhesives.

The Design Catalyst:

Biomimetic structures –> Eliminates need for additive materials –> Reduces emissions from transportation required to move materials

This is not a crazy coincidence. Often, when we look to nature to teach us how to design, a domino effect of unforeseen positive effects arises.  Natural systems are efficient and sustainable by…nature.

Watch this TED Talk by Michael Pawlyn to see more examples of this catalyst effect. Not only does he have a great British accent…he also shows some quick sketching that can lead to ideas about biomimicry in industrial design!

Week 01: Biomimicry

Welcome to my blog on biophilic design! This blog will primarily be used to analyze modern-day case studies where architects and designers are looking to nature for both inspiration and for new ways of approaching the built environment.

For starters, here is a great source for keeping up with the “buzz” in Biophilic design and research that I found this week.

Case Study 01: PolyThread

A Cellular Network Created Through ‘Knitting’

photo credit: Jenny Sabin


Architecture professor, Jenny Sabin, collaborates with a material scientists, mechanical engineers, and cell biologists to create materials and structures derived from processes found in nature.

Her recent PolyThread project specifically explores material’s response to sunlight. The knitted sculpture’s appearance changes based on variegated light sources, and the presence of people casting shadows within and around. The experience is visually stimulating, and unique to each visitor. The structure is an example of adaptive architecture which responds to changes in the environment. This project emulates our environment’s nonconformity, in other words each time we experience nature it is unique. Why shouldn’t our built environment strive for nonconformity?

Of course, Professor Sabin’s work was created using cutting-edge parametric software. However, this idea of adaptive design can be approached in many ways and is an interesting way to approach a sustainable interior space…

The PolyThread project is currently on display at the San Jose Museum of Art

Check out some more examples of biomimicry in parametric design