This paper discusses the approach of biomimetic design in architecture applied to the theme of growth in biology by taking two exemplary research projects at the intersection of arts and sciences. The first project, ‘Biornametics’, dealt with patterns from nature; the second project ‘Growing as Building (GrAB)’ took on biological growth as a specific theme for the transfer to architecture and the arts. Within a timeframe of five years (2011–2015), the research was conducted under the Program for Arts-based Research PEEK (Programm zur Entwicklung und Erschliessung der Künste) of the Austrian Science Fund FWF (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung). The underlying hypothesis was that growth processes in nature have not been studied for transfer into technology and architecture yet and that, with advanced software tools, promising applications could be found. To ensure a high degree of innovation, this research was done with an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers, and scientists (mainly biologists) to lay the groundwork for future product-oriented technological solutions. Growth, as one of the important characteristics of living organisms, is used as a frame for research into systems and principles that shall deliver innovative and sustainable solutions in architecture and the arts. Biomimetics as a methodology was used to create and guide information transfer from the life sciences to innovative proto-architectural solutions. The research aimed at transferring qualities present in biological growth; for example, adaptiveness, exploration, or local resource harvesting into technical design and production processes. In contrast to our current building construction, implementing principles of growth could potentially transform building towards a more integrated and sustainable setting, a new living architecture. Tools and methods, especially Quality Function Deployment (QFD) for matching biological role models with growth principles and architecturally desired functions and a Biolab as an experimentation platform are presented. Three main experimental trajectories were explored that matched the objectives of the research: (1) Transfer from biology into architecture, namely self-growing structures (proto-steps in form of a mobile 3D printer working with local material); (2) Integration of biology into material systems, namely fragmented waste matter grown into one solid building material (mycelium); and (3) Interventions in existing architecture, namely optimization of 3D path-finding through a single cell organism (slime mold).
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