Tag Archives: biomimicry

Universität Stuttgart Uses Robotics and Biomimicry to Create an Outdoor Event Pavillion

Researchers from Universität Stuttgart in Germany look to a sea creature and advanced digital timber-fabrication methods to construct an event pavilion called Buga Wood Pavilion for a horticultural show.

A group of 18 researchers and craftsmen led by Universität Stuttgart professors Jan Knippers, a structural engineer, and Achim Menges, an architect contributed to the project. “A biomimetic approach to architecture enables interdisciplinary thinking,” says Menges.

Enter the Best of Year Awards by September 20

Buga Wood Pavilion took 13 months to develop, and 17,000 robotically milled finger joints and 2 million lines of custom robotic code to build.

Photography courtesy of Universität Stuttgart.

To create the Buga Wood Pavilion for a horticultural show in nearby Heilbronn, Germany, researchers at Universität Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction and its Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design developed a robotic-manufacturing platform to CNC-cut geometric panels and form a segmented timber shell.

Photography courtesy of Universität Stuttgart.

Composed of spruce laminate, a rubber waterproofing layer, and a larch plywood exterior, the individual segments were fabricated at Müllerblaustein Holzbauwerke, a local workshop. 

Photography courtesy of Universität Stuttgart.

Working on boom lifts, craftsmen assembled the structure on-site over 10 days. 

Photography courtesy of Universität Stuttgart.

The 376 segments were joined via steel bolts. 

Photography courtesy of Universität Stuttgart.

The pavilion’s form is based on the exoskeleton of the sea urchin. 

Photography by Roland Halbe.

Buga’s form echoes the surrounding land­scape of  Sommerinsel, one of the 15 sites that the biennial Bundesgarten­schau takes place this year. 

Photography by Roland Halbe.

The combination of spruce, rubber, and larch plywood make the installation acoustically sound. 

Photography by Roland Halbe.

Fully assembled, the pavilion spans 104 feet and reaches 23 high.

Photography by Roland Halbe.

It is hosting concerts, lectures, and workshops through October 6, when it will be disassembled for future use. 

Photography by Roland Halbe.

LEDs illuminate the shell at night. 

> See more from the July 2019 issue of Interior Design

New and Noteworthy: 7 Recent Awards, Retrospectives and Partnerships

From award recognitions to exhibition openings, we’ve rounded up the most important design news from the past several weeks.

1. Rottet Studio named AIA Houston’s 2019 Firm of the Year

Rottet Studio senior staff accepts the award. Photography by Mark Johnson.

Rottet Studio is on a roll! From revamping the New York Stock Exchange (which won a Best of Year award in 2018) to opening the Hotel Alessandra in Rottet’s hometown of Houston, the firm has shown its undeniable presence in the design world. Rottet Studio received the award in early April during the Celebrate Architecture Gala at the Lone Star Flight Museum. 

The bar at Bardot, Hotel Alessandra’s cocktail lounge, combines walnut, brass, and resin. Photography by Eric Laignel.

2. Michael Anastassiades exhibits “Things That Go Together” retrospective

Michael Anastassiades’s ‘Things That Go Together’ in partnership with Flos. Photography courtesy of Flos.

The Best of Year award-winning duo is back. Flos partnered with designer Michael Anastassiades for his 12-year retrospective at the Nicosia Municipal Arts Center in his hometown of Cyprus, Greece. The show’s content ranges from Anastassiades’s design process to his research and includes his collaborations with Flos. The exhibit will run through July 20th.

3. “Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance 1850-1970” opens at RISD Museum

Circa ’70 Coffee and Tea Service by Donald H. Colflesh for Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1960. Silver with ebony and Formica. Photography courtesy of RISD Museum.

RISD Museum’s Elizabeth A. Williams curated 120 years of creations by American silver manufacturer Gorham. The collection ranges from 19th-century objets d’art to Cubist-inspired coffee service, all crafted with Gorham’s signature glistening metal. The exhibition runs from May 3rdto December 1st.

Cubic Coffee Service by Erik Magnussen for Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1927. Silver with gilding, ivory, and oxidized decoration. Photography courtesy of RISD Museum.
Egg Spoon by Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1879. Silver with gilding. Photography courtesy of RISD Museum.

4. Coalesse announces new design partners

The VerdantaTM line by Sagegreenlife is a collection of self-contained free-standing walls and partitions. Photography courtesy of Coalesse.

Workplace furnishings company Coalesse recently announced new partnerships with Sagegreenlife, Carl Hansen & Son, Viccarbe, and EMU. The four companies bring fresh ideas to the table, such as bioliphic partitions from Sagegreenlife, and Carl Hansen & Son’s legacy pieces by Hans Wegner.

Embrace Collection by Austrian design trio EOOS for Carl Hansen & Son. Photography courtesy of Coalesse.

5. Ressource now offers extensive design services

Ressource offers design services at its New York showroom. Photography courtesy of Resource.

French paint manufacturer Ressource has announced new color consulting, design, and special effects application services. These services open the door for Ressource to work closely with clients on customizing their projects.

6. Jerry Pair launches new website

Luxury furniture retailer Jerry Pair has entered the e-commerce sphere with a website refresh. The site offers 35,000 residential products including furniture, lighting, accessories, textiles, and wallcoverings.

7. Biomimicry Institute hosts annual design competition

Art imitates life—and so does design. The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge prompts designers to imagine nature-inspired solutions for urgent sustainability issues, this year’s theme being climate change. The competition is open to university students and professionals. Enter by May 8th to be considered.

Continue reading New and Noteworthy: 7 Recent Awards, Retrospectives and Partnerships


posted on 05/07/2018 By Kadie Yale

While not overwhelming, particular palm motifs consistently poked their head out from around booths during this year’s HD Expo, mirroring the notifications we receive in the form of press releases: palm fronds, abstracted and repeating, have continued to be used in the industry, particularly in the hospitality market.

Updated to match current trends, the use of palms has a very direct relation to the historic use of pineapples in American design. But why does the now-somewhat-kitschy use of pineapples and other lush tropical vegetation continue to be prevalent in American design, and what does it mean for contemporary interiors?

Interestingly, pineapples are one of the design staples brought over to the colonies from England. The fruit is said to have been brought back to Europe during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage, and its many versions–from candied to jam–became a must-have in the upper echelons of society. However, access to raw and unprocessed pineapple was a luxury even those at the top of the class structure could hardly get ahold of.

Transporting the fruit in time meant it had to be shipped on the quickest boats in the fleet, and few were able to make it before turning. Therefore, it became a status symbol to be able to have the fresh fruit. Even King Charles II commissioned a portrait with a pineapple in-hand. While transportation became easier along the North American seaboard as the colonies expanded, pineapples were still a costly commodity; they quickly became a preferred high-society hostess gift, thereby cementing its on-going legacy as a symbol of hospitality.

While pineapple motifs are still used, they somewhat lost their luster in the mid-20th century when technology and materiality allowed them to be incorporated into the growing middle class through goods like wallpaper and clothing textiles. The fruit took off in popular culture, due heavily to Hawai’i becoming a state on August 21, 1959. In the same ways that America saw Egyptian motifs in the 1920s after the discovery of King Tut or Japanese-influenced design in the mid-19th century, the welcoming of Hawai’i to the United States became exoticized.


Today, information can be easily found on the history of pineapple motifs in interior design, but for the most part, their use has continued more often because of the mid-20th-century inspiration. Ask an interior designer why they’ve chosen to use tropical foliage or a manufacturer why it’s entered their line, and the answers are typically in response to the fun aesthetic and relaxing aura pineapple and palms give off.

It’s an easy connection to say that pineapple icons evolved into the use of other tropical plants in decor, but I believe we can take it one step further to interweave the current importance of health and wellness into the reemergence of tropical prints.

As clients and end-users become more familiar with biomimicry and biophilic design, interior designers are searching for ways to bring nature indoors. With nature-inspired design on the rise, florals were reintroduced into interiors, but while pineapples mostly harken back to images of a 50’s father in a Hawaiian t-shirt next to the grill in a newly-developed suburb, florals have a tradition of easily crossing the line into appearing matronly (most likely due to gender bias, but that topic deserves its own article). Companies such as Tarkett have been able to release floral products in recent years, but they come alongside more abstracted designs to tone down the flower patterns.


Working with flowers, and working with flowers well is a special skill few possess.

Tropical motifs, however, haven’t had the same type of gender bias that flowers have. The historical tie-in to hospitality may not be as direct as it was in the past, but the image of palms, pineapples, and birds of paradise still inspire the feeling of luxury, relaxation, and getting away from it all. Eliciting these emotions while also pulling in biophilic design principals packages the whole aesthetic into the perfect “Wish you were here!” statement.

Two notable instances during the HD Expo show were the use of more mid-century design and repeat by Innovations, and an abstracted block-print-like design by Fil Doux. In particular, these two examples show the main ways in which interior designers are using tropical greenery: in traditional, realistic ways (Innovations), or by breaking down the pattern to only its geometric elements (Fil Doux).

Designers can expect to continue to see pineapples, palms, and more tropically-integrated products in the coming years. While they may not take center-stage or be the highlight of the collection, they will continue to emerge.

For More Information About This Blog Post, Click Here! 

NAU senior using insect engineers, sea star digestion and other natural inspiration to design homeless shelter

Termites have to keep their larva at a cool temperature before hatching, so living in forests, basements and other dark, cool spaces makes sense.

Living in the Sahara Desert, where summer temperatures can soar past 115 degrees for days on end, does not make sense.

Yet the bugs not only live in the desert, they thrive, with the same tool humans use to make living in the desert possible—air conditioning. Using only dirt and their own spit, the insects build a natural cooling system into their mounds, allowing the inside to remain at a temperature low enough for the larva to develop despite the bracing summer sun.

Northern Arizona University senior Tristan Hess, who is studying interior design, learned about termite engineering in a construction management class. Now-retired professor Stephen Mead talked about a building in Zimbabwe modeled somewhat after a termite mound, complete with this natural ventilating system. This process, Mead told his students, is known as biomimicry—copying nature to build structures, design software or create medicine.

“I just thought it was so cool, this idea of modeling something after nature and using it for your own benefit,” Hess said. “So I started doing my own research on it.”

A couple of weeks later, he was sitting in an interior design class when the professor mentioned biomimicry. With his research fresh in his mind, he approached after class and told her of his interest in this concept. Was there some way for him to put this research into practice and get credit for it?

There was. This semester Hess began a yearlong independent study, during which time he will research biomimicry and bioinspiration and then design and build a prototype of his project—a homeless shelter that can withstand Flagstaff winters, be lightweight and movable and not cost too much to make. He also won a Hooper Undergraduate Research Award from NAU and will present his research at the Undergraduate Symposium in April.

And if that wasn’t enough to motivate Hess in his final year at NAU, he has the responsibility of leading a team of students and networking with architects, designers and city leaders to get buy-in for a project that he hopes goes far beyond his prototype.

“This really changes the game and brings new ideas,” he said.

Natural inspiration

In a climate-controlled world in which needs are scheduled weeks in advance, a shelter for homeless populations or refugees would be as simple as four walls and a roof. No creativity or extra effort would be needed.

Flagstaff is not that world. A shelter here needs to offer protection from the elements and low temperatures. Hess also envisions the shelter being built in pieces that are easy to put together and take apart as well as easy to move, as these could be used after natural disasters where temporary shelters are needed quickly or in refugee camps.

Biomimcry process

Could that ideal shelter be a simple tent-like structure that looks the same as tents anywhere else? Sure. But that may not be the best option, and that is what Hess wants to know.

“I think one of the really successful pieces of his proposal is it’s going to force anyone who gets involved with this project to think from a new direction,” said Britton Shepardson, an anthropology lecturer who is an adviser on Hess’ project. “If we really want to come up with something new, let’s force ourselves to be inspired by something totally different and off the wall.”

Shepardson has a history of being inspired by the totally different. One day after class, Hess went by Shepardson’s office to see the hydroponic garden in the window. The garden is engineered using tennis ball cans; Shepardson, an archaeologist, has gotten used to repurposing whatever is available after 15 years of nonprofit education work on the remote Easter Island. Hess, in the midst of research on the best ways to build a simple structure using whatever was available, told Shepardson about his project.

“I’ve known about biomimicry for the better part of a decade, but I was really impressed that an undergraduate student was knowledgeable about the world of biomimicry,” Shepardson said. He was in.

As the founder of a nonprofit, he brought administrative knowledge and connections to the group, introducing Hess to architects and designers and suggesting ways to obtain grants and work with government officials. He also liked approaching problems from a less traditional angle, particularly those that were well outside his field of study.

That is how Shepardson found himself making a long drive through the Mojave Desert thinking about Hess’ research. What if, he asked himself, they used what he called the Tinker Toy approach? Tinker Toys are building toys that clip together. They could design those clips as spherical joints that could have PVC pipe or some other material clip in, thus creating a modular exoskeleton from which heavy-duty tarps could be hung. The joints could be made easily, such as through the use of a 3-D printer, and PVC pipe and tarps are available anywhere.

This would also allow for structures to be sized differently with the same spherical joints and replicated easily if they could be made with 3-D printers. They would be easy to build and take down but still structurally sound enough to be safe and effective.

That, however, is the mathematical answer to the question of how. It’s important, but before Hess designs what he’s building he needs to figure out what he’s building.

Shepardson had an idea for that too.

“I don’t know how I know this, but sea stars, to eat, expel their entire stomach and engulf their prey, then draw their stomach back in with their prey,” he said.


The idea they came up with was this: The tent would have a sack hanging in the interior of the tent made of some type of absorbent material. During the day, that sack would be pushed through the ceiling to the exterior of the tent, allowing it to absorb radiant heat as long as the sun was up. At night, it would retract into the tent and act as a natural heater.


In his ruminating, Hess took the sea star concept even further, sketching out a tent shaped like a star, with each arm serving as a private room and the center being a gathering place. With that, Shepardson said, they could consider using the exterior walls of the tent for freshwater bins, to grow gardens or place additional heat reservoirs. With nature, the possibilities are almost endless.

But at the end of the day, will this work? As the research continues, they’ll find out.

“Will it work,” though, is not the only question. It may be a total failure. That’s a normal part of the research process. Hess and his

Students in biomimicry project

team are learning how to research, design, plan and consider all of their options. They didn’t say no to anything because it was too weird.

“We want to really make an impact instead of just doing something repeated that isn’t going to be really beneficial,” Hess said. “That really changes the game of everything and brings new ideas.”

They haven’t settled on the sea star design; Hess and the other students are still researching their options and discussing ideas like anthills, looking beyond the engineering into how ants interact with society. In the spring they’ll start with the design, eventually designing a small-scale model that can be printed in 3-D that Hess will present at the Undergraduate Symposium in April.

Faculty or students who are interested in participating are welcome to join the team as well. Hess said they are looking for people in engineering and architecture especially.

The importance of undergraduate research

Hess is one of 36 students to earn a Hooper Undergraduate Research Award this year, which is one of NAU’s programs to encourage students to start research early. Tina Zecher, the senior program coordinator for the Office for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, said the university encourages undergraduates to participate in research starting their first year of college, either by working with a professor on a project he or she has already started or, like Hess, creating a project of their own.

“It gives students the opportunity to apply what they’re learning in the classroom in a real-world setting,” she said. “In research, you actually see the purpose of what it is you’re doing.”

Although the benefit of research is obvious for students headed to graduate school, it also is valuable for those planning to enter the workforce after graduation. In addition to the networking that comes with working closely with researchers, students learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills, leadership, organization, communication skills and more.

The Office for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, which administers the Hooper awards, has a number of other research programs as well, including providing funding for students to travel to present their research at conferences. Another is the Interns to Scholars program, which pays students to work with professors on their research. That is a good way to get students thinking about research without actually taking the lead on a research project, Zecher said.

Her department is working with academic departments to provide opportunities for even more undergraduate students to get into research, particularly younger students or those who don’t have research on their radar. It’s not just for science majors headed to graduate school, she said. All students in all disciplines can benefit from being involved in research.

“Research is for all students, and everyone is capable of it,” Zecher said. “Those who are less academically prepared have more to gain from being involved in a research experience.”

What are the Hooper Undergraduate Research Awards?

These awards, funded by Henry Hooper, a former vice president at NAU, provide undergraduate students up to $3,500 in a year to lead a research project. Students of all disciplines can apply and use the money to pay themselves to do the research, for materials and supplies or for travel, in case the project requires students to go into the field to gather data. Selected students get six hours of independent study credits and present their research at the symposium in April; they also attend a reception with Hooper. Applications for the next academic year can be submitted starting Feb. 1. All of the materials to apply for the Hooper Undergraduate Research Awards are available online.

For More Information About This Blog Post, Click Here! 

%d bloggers like this: