“Biomimicry is a new discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems.” — Biomimicry Institute
The name may be intimidating, but the idea is simple. Biomimicry adheres to a fundamental principle: Mother Nature is the world’s most successful designer. We know, for example, that the natural design strategies of flora, fauna, and ecosystems have been tested for millions of years — much longer than humans have been designing the built environment.
According to the Biomimicry Institute, biomimicry is a “movement of people who view nature not as a warehouse of goods but as storehouse of knowledge and inspiration for sustainable innovation … asking nature’s advice as a normal part of everyday inventing.” Biomimicry goes beyond simply imitating shapes and surfaces; true biomimetic designs mirror Mother Nature’s functional strategies and natural processes of self-organization.
So, how do these ideas manifest themselves in actual products?
Designers Joris Laarman, Mathias Bengtsson, Lilian Van Daal, and Nicolette de Waart put biomimicry to the test when they used a biomimetic approach to create concept chairs. Their innovative creations explore how human design can mimic nature to increase efficiency, elegance, and sustainability. Inspired by the form and function of nature, the design of each of these chairs explores at least one of the core methodologies — form, process, and system — of biomimetic design.
Form: Design Based on Its Intended Function
In 2007, Joris Laarman of Amsterdam, Netherlands, used SKO, a structure optimization algorithm that simulates bone mineralization, to design his innovative Bone Chair. Bone is a smart composite made of specialized cells and protein fibers. As strong as steel and as light as aluminum, it reacts to resist stresses from constantly changing external structural forces.
Process: Designed and Made Based on the Natural Processes of Self-Organization
Mathias Bengtsson of London designed the Cellular Chair, in 2011, based on the growth principles of human bones. Composed of lightweight epoxy, the material is designed to simulate the regeneration of bone tissue.
Lilian Van Daal’s concept chair, Biomimicry: 3D Printed Soft Seat, is based on the self-organizing structure of plant cells, whose structural design enables cells to be made of a single material and perform different functions with varying degrees of firmness, rigidity, and softness. Daal’s chair was created through a sustainable 3-D production process, eliminating multi-material construction of upholstery, foam, padding, covers, and frames.
System: Design That Performs Multiple Functions Within an Ecosystem
Design by Nico, founded by Nicolette de Waart, showcased a set of interlocking Leaf Seats at Milan Design Week this year. As many as seven Leaf Seats can be connected together to serve a range of functions, from individual stools to benches and even daybeds. Each Leaf Seat is handmade by British craftsmen using sustainable materials.
Learn more about biomimicry and its impact on the design industry at GO PRO/NYC, Sept. 18–19, 2014, in New York City. Janus Welton, LEED AP BD+C, AIA, and chemist Mark Dorfman of Biomimicry NYC will dive into sustainability, materiality and problem solving during their session “PROduct: Align Design, Business and Nature with Biomimicry.”