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The Influence of Nature on Modern Architectural Design


“I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is the beginning.” – Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs was not an architect in a traditional sense, but he did orchestrate the creation of a few powerful designs that are now recognized worldwide. Mr. Jobs understood the power of nature and knew that humans could learn much from studying the finer details of a crisp autumn leaf or the microscopic scales on the wing of a fluttering butterfly.

If you look at some of the most impressive structures that fill our skylines and cityscapes, you may be tempted to marvel at the ingenuity of human creativity. It is true that we are impressive creatures but if you take a step back, you will quickly realize that we have Mother Nature to thank for many of the forms and angles that capture and hold our attention. This is one of the reasons why the Architecturally Distinct Solutions team has such close ties to the functionality and sustainability of the natural designs found all around us in Kelowna and the rest of Canada. We are inspired by the North and believe that a focus on biomimicry will yield designs and structures that will impress for generations.


What is Biomimicry?

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns.

The natural world has been solving the most complex problems Earth has to offer for millions of years. Plants, animals, bacteria- all of the lifeforms that preceded our existence have been meticulously working on the difficult issues that they were presented with, taking on the part-time professions of engineers and architects. The patterns of nature are the foundation of the man-made world that surrounds us and the native solutions found outside of those man-made walls may hold the key to our future designs and successes.


What Natural Patterns Have Humans Adapted?

Every design can be traced back in some manner to a naturally occurring formation. Even the most seemingly random and obscure structures find their roots in the swirl of a snail shell, or on the scales of a snake. In every great design or building, you will find evidence of symmetry, spirals, stripes, spots, cracks, and tessellations. Naturally derived patterns can create absolutely stunning modern structures when controlled and placed by an inspired architect. Let’s take a brief look at each of these organic designs and discover where they are found in nature and how we have integrated the patterns into human formations.


Symmetry: The sense of awe and ease that is achieved by perfect symmetry has been the motivation behind many towers, bridges and archways. Symmetry gives buildings a sense of balance and completion. The human body itself is built with bilateral symmetry or mirror symmetry, so it is only natural that architects find themselves looking to make their designs equally appealing to the eye. Leonardo da Vinci even designed churches with the exact proportions of his own human body. There are many types of symmetry found in nature, such as the rotational symmetry of a flower’s petals or the fivefold symmetry of a slow-moving starfish.   

Spirals: A beautiful example of natural spirals can be found in the chambers of a nautilus shell. Each chamber is an approximate copy of the next, scaled by a constant factor and arranged in a logarithmic spiral that would bring a smile to any mathematicians face. There is a reason why architects have adopted spirals so often in their designs- they are the lowest energy configurations which are spontaneously created. The flow, patterns and symmetry of spirals are extremely appealing to the eye and can be found on many pillars and staircases all over the world.

Stripes and Spots: It is easy to become lost in the plethora of stripes on a zebra’s back. The spots and stripes that occur naturally are extremely useful as camouflage when survival is a top priority. When you are looking to impress and dazzle with design, stripes and spots can be used to pull a person’s attention and firmly hold it, their eyes struggling to take in the entire pattern as a whole. Stripes and spots can be used to create order in a building, or an architect can tap into Mother Nature’s intended purpose and confuse those who first glance at a structure.  

Cracks: When the unrelenting Savannah heat dries the mud of its vast planes, the moisture departs the soil and deep cracks begin to form. Cracks in mud, stone or shells are beautiful and powerful at the same time. The patterns that emerge from a crack are seemingly random, which is one of the aspects that some architects love. When we can use cracks in a controlled setting, it tricks the observer, as we are trained to associate cracking with something that is broken. A great example of cracks in modern design can be found in a structure in Denmark that uses jagged cracks to allow light to enter the building while giving passersby a brief glimpse into the guts of the structure.

Tessellations: There is a smooth, flowing effect that can be achieved in a building where geometric shapes are repeated one after the other, with no gaps or space in between. One of the most famous natural examples of a tessellation is popular right now in the world of modern design- honeycombs. The repeating, hexagonal pattern of a comb found in a beehive is extremely appealing the eye. The human mind seems to appreciate how all the patterns fit and flow together without disruption. Another natural example of a tessellation can be found on the belly of a testy piranha. The repeating and overlapping pattern of fish or reptile scales has been used by many architects, often for large exterior walls or roofs.


When you dissect all of the man-made structures around us and break forms down to their basic levels,  you will notice natural elements intertwined into every design. The next time you are searching for inspiration, try looking out of your window instead of searching online. We still have much to learn from the organic world that surrounds us. The next great modern architectural design could be hidden within an errant blade of grass or the sparkling drop of morning dew that sits on top of it.


Ready to get started on designing a home or structure inspired by nature? Contact us today to build your own modern masterpiece.