Zaha Hadid Architects, Kartel-Pendik Masterplan, Istanbul, Turkey, 2006

“…an architect’s blueprint is a specific one-off set of plans whereas the ‘blueprint in nature is a set of instructions which are dependent on a particular environmental context for their interpretation.  Our present search to go beyond the ‘blueprint’ in architecture and to formulate a coded set of responsive instructions…may yield a more appropriate metaphor.”  Frazer, John.  An Evolutionary Architecture, London: Architectural Association,1995, p.11.

Today’s technology is increasingly and quickly providing a platform for architects and designers to generate form directly derived from external quantitative information.  Zaha Hadid Architects, Coop Himmelblau, Asymptote,  Greg Lynn, MVRDV are some of the many contemporary designers embracing this evolutionary architecture.

The video below is an illustration of what can be done with the program Grasshopper, which allows the user to input any number of quantitative data, then set up an algorithm which allows that data to generate a form based on that data.  Read more here.

Greg Lynn. Tea and coffee set with integral teapot, coffee pot, milk jug, sugar bowl with pourer and tray.

Greg Lynn and Frank Gehry. Atlantis Sentosa, Singapore. 2006.

Greg Lynn’s Embryological House is a project which allows future users to input their individual dwelling needs in order to generate the most appropriate house for them.

Parameteric Urbanism takes these ideas to an urban scale, gathering city data (population, demographics, traffic, etc…), which is then analyzed, diagrammed and inputted to create viable, transformative forms.


The previous post was about architectural form as it is inspired by nature.  Following are a tiny sample of some examples of biological processes as applied to architecture.

Heinz Insler and Frei Otto are two architects who did extensive research on the natural laws of physics as related to thin shell concrete structures and tensile structures, respectively.

Their early work and research is reflected in today’s contemporary architecture, like in PTW and Arup’s Watercube for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, which was based on research into soap bubbles by two physists Robert Phelan and Denis Weaire.  Today, the building is, appropriately, a water park.

Metabolism in architecture was a movement that started in the 1960s in Japan.  Drawing on the root of the word, the Greek METABOLE, which simply means “change,” Metabolic architects conceived of large scale projects that could (theoretically) expand, shrink, and grow over time, recalling growth processes in nature.

The Pompidue Center in Paris is a building whose systems are displayed on its outside, defining its form.

The Water Theater is an unbuilt project by Grimshaw Architects who drew inspiration from the Namibian fog-basking beetle who gathers water in the desert, to design a building that could gather water from the atmosphere.

Norman Foster‘s “Gherkin” in London has been compared to the Venus Flower Basket Sponge which has a similar structure that both reduces stresses and enables an open atrium to provide natural ventilation.


Ernst Haeckel’s undeniably beautiful work has become a iconic representation of the merger between the arts and biology.  In architecture, the beauty inherent in natural plant forms serve as a major source of inspiration for architects designing during the turn of the 20th century (Art Nouveau).

by architect Louis Sullivan

Antoni Gaudi's Casa Mila (Barcelona)

Contemporary works inspired by natural forms include (clockwise top left).  Zaha Hadid’s design for an opera house in Dubai, Frank Gehry’s Peix Hotel d’Arts in Barcelona, Peter Cook’s Kunsthaus in Graz, Austria, and Herzog and de Meuron’s [in conjuction with engineers Arup] Bird’s Nest for the Olympics in Beijing. [see links for additional content.]




Santiago Calatrava

Milwaukee Art Museum by Santiago Calatrava

and then there’s the literal interpretation of nature in architecture. 


















Product design Inspired by biological forms, processes or systems.


FlexibleLove, made from easily accessed recycled materials, is furniture directly inspired by accordion and honeycomb structures.



Stephanie Nieuwenhuyse is a fashion designer who designed a line of clothing inspired from natural patterns made by tiling in nature.  The garments are made up of hundreds of individual scales or tiles, mimicking reptilian skin patterns and form.  The fabric is created from tiles laser-cut from discarded plywood.


As part of a project called Nobel Textiles,  designers from the Central St. Martins College of Art and Design collaborated with Nobel prize winning scientists to create diverse projects inspired by the scientific research.  Shown here is  some of the work done by Rachel Wingfield, inspired by the work of John E. Walker who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1997) for his work oulining the ways in which enzymes make ATP.  Wingfield’s project, Metabolic Media, uses textiles to create new forms for energy harvesting. Her projects specifically look at urban food production, using technologies like dye-senistised (printable) solar cells and compotable ‘seed’ cutlery.

Other projects include Rachel Kelly’s transparent wallpaper inspired by the appearance and disappearance of cyclin in cells, as discovered by Tim Hunt‘s research with sea urchin eggs and disappearing proteins. In various shades of light, hidden patterns in the wallpaper will be revealed.

The Jellyfish House, by architect  Iwamoto Scott is an unbuilt project that uses the jellyfish as inspiration for a house designed for a site located on Treasure Island in San Francisco bay.  Just as a jellyfish filters water through its permeable skin, the house is enveloped in a parametric mesh skin to capture, filter and store rain water for use in the home.  It does this by  channeling the water into compartments which purify the water using UV light powered by thin film photovoltaics.