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    Do Michael Pawlyn’s nature inspired creations hold the key to designing buildings for the future?

    Ellyn Hadley

    As a part of his first solo exhibition, ‘Designing with Nature’, Exploration Architecture’s Michael Pawlyn has crafted a collection of cutting-edge designs inspired by natural forms, ranging from sea urchins to coral reefs.

    Currently exhibited at the Architecture Foundation’s south London gallery, Pawlyn’s biomimicry designs lay out his visions of sustainable architectural solutions for the future.

    The deep-sea-living Spookfish was Pawlyn’s inspiration behind plans for an office building with a fish-eye style mirror lens in its atrium - designed to reflect light into the shadows and minimise the need for artificial lighting.

    Other design features of the office are modelled on the characteristics of underground stone plants that employ translucent pockets in their leaves to allow light to reach its hidden photosynthetic foliage tissue.

    According to Pawlyn, a building such as the one he has envisioned would have 50 percent less glass than a typical office block of similar size and floor area.

    The Biomimetic Office Building takes inspiration from the spookfish

    A prototype for a biorock that could enable future designers to “grow” buildings from atmospheric carbon is also showcased at the exhibition.

    The biorock concept is based on the actions of a single-cell marine organism called coccolithophore, which creates its outer encasing from calcium carbonate pulled from surrounding seawater. 

    Pawlyn claims the same principle could be adapted in architecture by passing a low electric current through a metal armature immersed in the sea, attracting mineral deposition over time.

    A project currently being designed in collaboration with Queens University, Belfast, could see the first biorock pavilion grown underwater, using a wire mesh structure in the form of a ribbed seashell.

    In addition to these projects, study models, sketches and specially commissioned short films introducing Exploration’s projects are presented at the exhibition alongside 20 more natural specimens, many of which Pawlyn believes hold the potential to inform our built environment over the coming millennia.

    Designing witth Nature exhibition. Images: Daniel Hewitt

     Courtesy Inhabitat and The Guardian UK

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