“Biomimicry” is designing after nature; imitating its patterns and systems. Isn’t this a strange concept? By “mimicking” nature, we admit our deep-rooted feeling of otherness. Though technically animals, we now self-consciously regulate our behavior to minimize our impact. In a planet defined by constant change, we lament how our our industry contributes to global warming – while a volcano is a blameless part of nature. Mankind considers itself a foreign presence in the ecosystem.
When was this balance upset? How have different cultures related to nature through their history? Our buildings can provide insight.
Nature seeks the easiest path. It prefers certain forms: the circle and triangle, which optimize volume and strength. Early man used the same forms for shelter; round enclosures for building footprint, livestock pens, and defense contained the maximum area per amount of building material. Curved walls can follow the contours of the land, reducing the need for costly excavation. Triangular framing is inherently strong and simple to construct, though less optimal for headroom. Our ancestors built structures like this worldwide.
A typical prehistoric village, seen from above, has obvious resemblance to organic patterns. (Drawings by the author)