Biomimicry in Architecture

How does nature inspire the buildings we design?

Besides helping define the London skyline, the Gherkin’s unusual shape is also responsible for reducing its energy consumption by almost half compared with similar buildings. Can you guess what object in nature inspired this process?

The deep sea Venus’ Flower Basket sponge and its efficiency in filtering water and nutrients inspired designers of the Gherkin. Gaps in each floor of the building create shafts that sandwich air between the two layers of spiraling glass that encase the building, which keeps the Gherkin insulated.

The 217-foot-wide Burke Brise Soleil sunscreen crowns the Milwaukee Art Museum. Can you guess what it was modeled after?

The graceful flap of wings inspired Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to create a moveable sunscreen atop the museum. The “wings” pull double duty as both a visual icon for Milwaukee and also a functional sunscreen.

A mixed office complex and shopping mall, the Eastgate building in Harare, Zimbabwe, is ventilated, cooled and heated naturally. In the first five years alone, Eastgate’s design saved the building’s owner $3.5 million in energy costs. How did they do it?

Eastgate is modeled after a termite mound! Using a complex system of tunnels and cells, these mud structures allow cool air to enter from underground chambers and hot air to be forced out the top.

Tasked with creating a bold, stand-out stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games, the architects behind the Beijing National Stadium wrapped this 91,000-seat concrete structure in 26 kilometers of steel, making it the world’s largest steel structure. What does it remind you of?

The Beijing National Stadium was immediately nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest,” and it’s easy to see why. The architects used the haphazard look of intertwined twigs as inspiration for the complex geometry of the stadium’s outer façade.

Oklahoma City’s SkyDance Bridge connects pedestrians to the Oklahoma River. The city held a national contest and chose this design. What do you think inspired the SkyDance Bridge’s unique shape?

The long, forked tail of the scissor-tailed flycatcher, Oklahoma’s state bird, inspired the SkyDance Bridge’s unique shape. Males are known for their acrobatic courtship “sky dance” where they climb 100 feet in the air and plunge down in a zigzagging, summersaulting course, cackling all the way.

These amazing advances are a reminder of the importance of protecting our natural world. When you donate today, you’ll help The Nature Conservancy protect the most vital habitats on Earth.


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