Many are the architects that seek higher sustainability and efficiency for their designs, when it comes to energy, and more eco-friendly structures, which is to say, buildings capable of blending in with the environment and which main objective is to reduce the impact caused by traditional construction on the environment, with regard both to gas emissions and other pollutants, and concerning visual pollution as well.

Visual pollution breaks the aesthetics of natural landscapes, coming to cause even health issues due to an aggressive and invasive visual over-stimulation. In order to reduce and palliate the impact derived from such visual exposition, a new type of architecture is born, a way of edifying that seeks to blend in with the environment and replicates natural forms aiming to adapt them to their structures.

What is biomimetic architecture? How does it work?

This architecture looks beyond the simple fact of trying to minimise visual impact through mimicry with the environment. It is a style that looks for sustainable solutions in the examples nature itself provides, through the understanding of its norms and functioning.

According to experts, natural procedures seem to work better than many state-of-the-art technologies currently available because they make use of less energy, they generate a low amount of waste, there is higher exploitation of natural resources, and their environmental footprint is essentially non-existent.

Many of these constructions use land itself as part of their structure, which comes into a reduction in material use. Besides, constructions built on mountains or caves benefit from higher levels of insulation, both in summer and winter, and in consequence, electricity use has to be lower. As an example of this type of constructions, The Earth House Estate in Switzerland, The Desert House in California, Caveland in Missouri, the Aloni Residence in Greece or Vila Vals, also in Switzerland, can be referred. All these constructions are clear examples of how the land can be put to good use, as well as the walls of caves or mountain slopes as part of the construction, without however disturbing the landscape view of the place.

Other examples

  • Övre Gla Cabin. This house is located on the shores of the Övre Gla Lake, in the nature reserve of Glaskogen (Sweden). What makes this house so peculiar is that it is fully wrapped with wood scales and can adjust to the weather conditions of the environment, as well as to the number of occupants. This cabin has been designed taking butterflies as a reference: during the winter months, the house closes by itself like a compact cocoon with a type of double skin that insulates during the Swedish sharp freeze, while in summer, it unfolds itself as a butterfly would, either to have higher ventilation or to protect itself from rainfalls. Natural and traditional materials from the area were employed for its construction, such as cedar wood, which is part of the roof and, besides it has no maintenance needs, it becomes grey with the passage of time, thus blending in fully with the environment.
  • The Algae House. Also known as BIQ building (building with Bio-Intelligent Quotient), it is located in the city of Hamburg, Germany, and it is the first building in the world equipped with a bio-reactive façade. Its name results from the transparent surface of one of the sides of its tower, composed of microscopic algae, hence its green colour scheme. These algae receive nourishment thanks to the water circuit flowing around the building surface, and when there is an adequate amount of them, they are picked up to produce biogas, the main energy source for the building. These microalgae, besides, are able to regulate the light that enters the building: in winter, algae reproduction is minimal due to low solar radiation, in such a way that the façade panels are basically transparent and enable light to enter the interior. Quite the opposite, the number of algae increases in summer, thus creating a natural panel that protects and insulates the building from heat.

  • The Mirror Houses, in South Tyrol. Designed by architect Peter Pichler, these houses are the perfect example of “camouflaged houses” amidst nature. The façade of these houses is fully made of mirrors, and as a result, the environment is completely reflected, making the houses seem invisible. Besides, the mirror glass is laminated with a UV covering in order to prevent bird collisions. These houses are also provided with big skylights which guarantee crossed ventilation and natural lighting.

Blending in buildings or homes with nature, or merging natural elements for their construction can be a great advantage both to mankind and to the environment.