Designing with Nature

10 Feb 2014

First solo exhibition for Exploration Architecture open until 15 March 2014

In May 2013, WAN attended a symposium on Daylighting hosted by Velux at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen. This was our first encounter with Exploration Architecture and the studio’s Founder Michael Pawlyn gave a riveting speech about Exploration’s complex techniques using biomimicry in architectural design.

As is evident in WAN’s report on the event, we were suitably impressed by the methodology of this modestly-sized firm and therefore snapped up the chance to attend a press preview of Exploration’s first solo exhibition last week. On show at the Architecture Foundation in London until 15 March 2014, Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature is a curious blend of architecture models and biological specimens which will leave you wondering if you stepped into the Natural History Museum by mistake.

Of the exhibition, Pawlyn has said: “Rather than merely mitigating negatives, we need solutions that optimise positives and create a new paradigm of restorative design. Biomimicry draws on nature as a source of solutions that are already extremely well adapted to the very challenges we will need to address over the next few decades - from climate change to resource scarcity.

“The exhibition will also show Exploration’s working methodology of initiating projects, and collaborating with specialists from different disciplines to overcome obstacles to radical new solutions.”

During the preview on Thursday, Pawlyn gave an in-depth tour of the showcase detailing each of the four projects on display, from the Biomimetic Office Building which uses daylighting techniques inspired by the Spookfish (a fish that has developed mirrors to enhance light intensity at great ocean depths) to the Sahara Forest Project which references the Namibian Desert Beetle (an insect that allows ocean fog to form condensation on its back which it then drinks to survive in arid conditions).

Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature also unveils two previously-unpublished projects. One is the BioRock Pavilion, an events venue that can be grown underwater using a steel frame with a low current running through it to create a carbon shell as strong as reinforced concrete. The other is a server centre in the Norwegian mountains topped with ‘a little Eden Project’ that uses Murray’s Law to maintain a constant temperature of 5°C. These are four very different projects from one exceptional practice.

Suspended above the building models are transparent boxes showing specimens of the organisms that inspired the designs and the display tables have been 3D printed to showcase SKO software, a programme based on the adaptive growth patterns of trees and bones. The display has been created with support from Lukas Oehmigen of BigRep and Ultimaker.

Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature is at the Architecture Foundation’s Central London Project Space until 15 March and Michael Pawlyn will be giving a lecture presenting his working philosophy and latest projects at 7pm on Monday 17 February at the Unicorn Theatre, 147 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2HZ. 

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