2011 - KTH Biomimicry Course

This is the research gathered by students who attended the Biomimicry elective course in the Fall of 2011 at KTH-AB


I heard competition team is thinking to use an idea of the ice coating on the trees.
The presentation reminded me of  "Rokko Shidare", so I want to introduce this architecture.

Do you know Hiroshi Sambuichi (三分一 博志), japanese architect??
His policy is "Detail of  the earth" and he designed many sustainable architectures.
"Rokko Shidare" is also his work. It's an observation platform.

as you can see in the photo, this architecture is covered with cancellous dome. 
In winter,  ice grows on this small mesh. In this case, I think this ice doesn't play environmental role so much, but it could be one idea how to catch ice on structure!


Week 7 - presentations of biomimicry applications to design

Guest:  Fredrik Moberg - Albaeco (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Fredrik Moberg is the Director of Albaeco, an independent organisation communicating the latest in sustainability science with a focus on Nature’s importance to society and the economy. He holds a PhD in natural resources management from Department of Systems Ecology at Stockholm University. His research dealt with biological diversity, ecosystem services and resilience of the tropical coastal zone. Fredrik has more than ten years experience from popular science communication with a wide range of lectures, reports, book chapters, newsletters, web pages, newspaper articles and radio spots on his CV. 

I found some of these example quite inspirational on a design-feature-level!




I made a short overview how our competition entry could be structured in the end?
And there is a lot of material in the competition folder in the Dropbox. So let's go!


We were looking at some advices on how to think in a "sustainable way" and we found this video which we think could be really helpful for everyone!!!!!!!


Credit: Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP


In Scandinavia you can find also a bioluminesence fungis called Foxfire. The bad thing is that it uses O2 and creates CO2, reversed photosynthesis.

Bioluminescence in the Forest
Foxfire: Bioluminescent Fungi

Foxfire - the term for the bioluminescence created in the right conditions by a few species of fungi as they consume rotting wood. The luminescence is often attributed to members of the genus Armillaria, the Honey mushroom, though others are reported, and as many as 40 individual species have been identified.

BL light comes from a biochemical reaction at air temperature. Light generated from rotting wood by fungi is bioluminescence.
Foxfire (blog)

People from many parts of the world have found uses for these natural lanterns. The Swedish historian Olaus Magnus wrote in 1652 that people in the far north of Scandinavia would place pieces of rotten oak bark at intervals when venturing into the forest. They could then find their way back by following the light.

There are several light related phenomenon which are confused and misidentified.

“Fluorescence” is where energy from an external light is absorbed and immediately released at a longer wavelength (whitening / blueing detergents which convert unseen ultraviolet light into visible light.).

“Phosphorescence” is energy from an external light absorbed and released at a longer wavelength sometime later (glow in the dark children toys).

“Chemiluminescence” is the production of light from a chemical reaction (green-colored emergency light sticks).

“Bioluminescence” is a type of chemiluminescence where light is generated by a chemical reaction inside a living organism.
Bioluminescence is produced by the sudden decay of a high energy molecule to a lower energy form. The difference in the energy levels for this one molecule is one photon of light which escapes. The chemical composition and structure of the special molecule which is energized and decays to produce light, modifies the wavelength of any light generated. Different light wavelengths are used by living things in different environments -- ocean bottom to mountain top.
One way to understand bioluminescence is by comparison with photosynthesis. Bioluminescence is the reverse of photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, a living organism captures light and carbondioxide (CO2) to make organic materials and release oxygen. In bioluminescence, light and carbondioxide (CO2) are released by breaking apart organic materials using oxygen.





I add a link to the publication "Edible city" (unfortunately only in estonian). 
For the english summary read page 108.
They  made experiments in the city for gaining knowledge about possibilities and threats for growing food in the city centre. They had three different sites: city centre, almost city centre and countryside. After they compared the results, for example chemicals and toxines in the food. They also explain the chemicals etc they analysed. For example there is problem with dust in the city, and when the dust settles on the food, the food gets polluted. One element in the dust is lead (Pb comes from the Latin word plumbum, and it's the chemical symbol for lead.)that comes from cars.

If you find something intresting from the pictures, I can translate the main issue of text related to the picture etc.

Also a link to the organisation (group of activists) who work with urban issues.
Linnalabor (Urban Lab) http://www.linnalabor.ee/en/

"Urban Lab is a testing ground for urban innovations. We work on new solutions to improve and diversify the urban life. As the name tells, the Lab is all about experimenting. Our projects involve scientific, social and artistic methods. Urban Lab is the focal point for studying cities, urban issues and phenomena."


I found it interesting! It include few examples that I think we had last session.



Credit: Dezeen Mag

I worked a lot with facades in my last project and found a lot of inspirations.
Thought I should share this project which is from the office of Nieto Sobejano Arcquitectos,
an office I find great inspire in!



Me and Veronica did a "food and waste-map" over  the Meatpacking-area in Stockholm where we are going to design a markethall. It's really just a sketch over what assets the different industries might provide or be used in an industrial ecosystem. Since we're designing a foodmarket we saw the opportunity to use easy methods as compost-systems and possibly allow the foodmarket to produce some of its own food (even though it might be more of a symbolic gesture). Many industries and companies in the area are creating a lot of foodwaste, which we can use as compost, soil, energy etc etc. We were thinking of looking into how one can create energy from foodwaste, which plants could clean polluted air, what plants could dampen noise from the trafficated streets. Any other suggestions?

/Selma & Veronica


I just googled Herbert Girardet and found some interesting things about the city metabolism. I was very shocked to read about the destruction of food and searched some more information. Over 30% of all the food produced worldwide does not end in human stomachs but on landfills. In Germany it's even half of it. With the food thrown away only in Europe the whole planet could be feed! It's really incredible! Here's the link for the trailer of a documentary about the destruction of food, I couldn't find the whole film but it can give an impression!

See you, Blanca


A documentary about the worldwide destruction of food. Why do we throw away so much? And how can we stop this kind of waste?      Film by Valentin Thurn

Credit: Herbert Girardet

Vandana Shiva Interview-part one
She is talking mostly about seeds. Very disturbing.
P.s the first 30 sec are in Icelandic so you can skip them. The rest is in english.

Vanda Shiva Interview


Credit: Shiva


I gathered some more information for facades. I looked more for the natures systems for light and shade and discovered some new ideas beside blooming flowers. I got intrested about bark of the trees, that helps trees to keep cool. Since majority of buildings even in our climate use more energy to cooling not heating, it´s useful.
Bark of the Paperbark Mapleen tree / Derek Ramsey
Luckily there is also an example for this:) Who is intrested in termites, should look for this architects: Mick Pearce, who used different biomimicry ideas on that building

First building:

Location         Harare, Zimbabwe
Mick Pearce, Harare, Zimbabwe
Year                 1992-1997


Council House 2

Location         Melbourne, Australia
Mick Pearce, Harare, Zimbabwe
Year                 2006

Dominique Hes

 To still continue with the flowers and blossoms I add a facade I found in Singapore. It uses the leaf/blossom system to shade the indoors. It looks not thick, but they say that it shades 60% of building needs (?).

Crowne Plaza, Changi Airport

Singapore, Singapore, Republic of 
WOHA, Singapore, Singapore, Republic of 

Designed to provide a sense of peace and tranquillity for travellers, and to meet shade requirements, the material selection was key to achieving this outcome. The lightweight screen concept required Aurecon to undertake accelerated testing of possible facade materials to verify weathering and compatibility with interfacing materials.  Ultimately, a polymer modified glass fibre reinforced gypsum compound was used to create the petals, with screed elements sculpted from visual and CAD animations of scaled samples. The modular units of screen petals were factory assembled into full floor height partitions to allow for fast on-site installation.
The resulting building ‘floats’ on a filigree floral cage that filters and softens the surroundings, providing 60 per cent shading for the building.



On the way to find a solutions for a "nature-integrated dormitory" I started to look for insects and how they place "buildings". Because our project is in the middle of a huge birchforest I found the Epinotia solandriana, his english name is Birch-leafroller! On this basis I created a small sketch for a solution.....

There is a system map about the lemmings, but the end of this cycle is a big question. It's not so easy as it seems, because the scientist didn't exactly know why the lemmingpopulation is just exploding every couple of years. Maybe the biologist Lousie mentioned know?

You can find more details about a really weird swedish animal in this 70's documentary:

Hello guys, I did a little mapping of our system discussion (lappland group) the other week. See you on Wednesday/ Jessica

This week we look into the systems thinking aspect of ecosystems and the development of mapping strategies in our design process.  We practice this through a short group assignment  of mapping to help us develop this skill further.  This will enable us to investigate the macro perspective lens of nature, which can be made applicable to eco-urban systems.

Grady nad Moszczenica, Poland
Photographer unknown
Image: Pollution Issues Website

    Courtesy of Arbitare Magazine IT

This week we look into the systems thinking aspect of ecosystems and the development of mapping strategies in our design process.  We practice this through a short group assignment  of mapping to help us develop this skill further.  This will enable us to investigate the macro perspective lens of nature, which can be made applicable to eco-urban systems.

Hej där,

After reading Chapter I of the Book I rember a documentary seen some years ago.

The story is about big concerns (in this case Monsanto) controlling the food industry in a very bad way. It's really worth watching it! What I liked in our book was, that they not just complaining as in the movie. Instead they're looking for ways to change it!

Another movie I found while looking for this one is: http://www.foodincmovie.com/ ... maybe it's interesting to learn about the foodcycle and how to improve it to a better way of using the energy?

Some interesting information when we think of waste management. Termites can turn cardboard into energy. The termites can digest cellulose, although not on their own.

"Termites do not digest cellulose directly…instead they collect vegetation, chew it up, and leave the chemical breakdown to other organisms. There are two strategies. The most primitive termites swallow the vegetation and pass it to a fermentation chamber where anaerobic bacteria and protozoa break down the cellulose…More advanced species have a different feeding strategy. The energy source is still cellulose, but it is digested outside the termite's body…Fungi is the only kingdom of organisms able to digest cellulose in air, though they need warmth and humidity to do the job efficiently." (Gould and Gould 2007:132-133)

Credit: AALA

Like we saw before in the Able project, cellulose can also attract earthworms. They digest it only partly. Fungi and bacteria will digest it further.
"Earthworms assist in degrading cellulose through cellulose enzymes in their guts, by dispersal of fungal spores, and by changing the structure of the substrate which stimulates fungal growth. Fungi make important contributions in the initial stage of decomposition; then bacteria become principal decomposers." (Summarized from Aria et al. 2006)

Earthworm Credit: unknown source
This can be all very interesting if we want to get rid of packaging material. We have of course the great example of The ABLE Project. But if we want to do it differently, we should take a closer look into the whole digestion process. 

When we do a step backward and we take a look at the termite nest, we can see that there are many more interesting bacteria that help termites digest different things. If we think of waste management, we should definitely take a look at their whole system!

Posted by Martine


Louise Hård af Segerstad
Science Communicator at Albaeco. (Stockholm Resilience Centre)
MSc in Systems Ecology. Studied Economy, History of Ideas, Biology, Geology.

Albaeco is an independent organization working  to communicate transdisciplinary science on ecosystem services and resilience. Albaeco work in close collaboration with the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. Louise is one of the founders of Albaeco and has worked with communications on ecosystem services and resilience since 1999. She writes, give courses, lectures and workshops. The work is based on research insights on ecosystem services, resilience and management of social-ecological systems.

Posted by Irene!

I've found a quite funny article about the organization of the so called "army ants" (or driver ants)…..they are a kind of ants that lives in the rainforest and that is carnivorous!

These ants are the stuff of legend, and are the only insects known to kill and devour (gasp) human beings!

They can easily overpower small animals that are unable to flee in time, but FORTUNATELY their diet mainly composes other small invertebrates.
The workers are all blind and rely on chemical trails to find their way around.
The article explain how is it possible that a huge group of organism can move and react so perfectly in relation to the members of the community without any central coordination!

"While we might think of army ants as fierce insect Huns, the fact is, they are also preyed on by opportunistic predators (including other ants). It’s all a part of nature’s check and balance. Otherwise, all the lands where army ants occur would be overrun by them by now. Once more, you have to marvel at how nature balances everything up perfectly; the only ones screwing things up are us humans."
ARTICLE DOWNLOAD:  http://kuaishen.tv/txts/the_swarm_raiders.pdf
Credit: Axel Rouvin 

Posted by Hildur:

A link to Cradle to Cradle
Biological vs Technological systems
Credit: Cradle to Cradle

Credit: Cradle to Cradle

Posted by Adam:
Credit:Barbro Ingvaldsson
Mathematicians reveal code of Islamic Patterns

This article came up on dn.se right after our last lecture, it's about how western mathematicians recently learned how the fractal patterns that are widely used in Islamic architecture were made.

Don't know to what degree the islamic architects were inspired by nature but anyways.. fractals + architecture, for anyone who's interested.

In Swedish only i'm afraid..

This week introduced the concepts and techniques central to our course around the topic of biomimicry. The journey was creative looking into the discipline of biomimicry and its initial applications from a micro perspective.

We began on an artistic note looking to Hans Haacke who is a german artist whose working material is living plants. He guides us in our thinking, making and creating;

...make something which experiences, reacts to its environment, changes, is nonstable…

...make something indeterminate, that always looks different, the shape of which cannot be predicted precisely...

...make something that cannot “perform” without the assistance of its environment...

...make something sensitive to light and temperature changes, that is subject to air currents and depends, in its functioning, on the forces of gravity...

...make something the spectator handles, an object to be played with and thus animated...

...make something that lives in time and makes the “spectator” experience time...

...articulate something natural…
                                                                                                                             Cologne, Germany 1965

We explored the subject on 4 levels;
SKIN      (building envelope)
SKELETON      (structural support)
FUNCTIONS      (adhesion, colour creation, sensors, resource-producing)
PROTECTION      (from non-biological elements; fire, earthquake, gloods etc)

Anna Maria Orru
Carole Collet  
Azolla fern - Erik Sjodin

In this inspiring talk about recent developments in biomimicry, Janine Benyus provides heartening examples of ways in which nature is already influencing the products and systems we build.

TED TALK: Janine Benyus - 'Nature's designs'

Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.

TED TALK: Paul Stamets - '6 ways mushrooms can save the world'

Post by Mathias

Christoph found some interesting examples for landscape design studio project:

 Norway lemming (no use for architecture? :-) ):
Credit:Don Reid/Wildlife Conservation Society

                     Credit: Michael Haferkamp
Arctic willow (a possibility to structure a building):

But I think there are more possibilities to discuss "arctic" 
organism and to compare them to arctic architectural projects...

Kersti adds some thoughts: 
I was really interested about light and facade. But of course there are so many issues I would like to learn more about. For example structures and shells that sea organisms or plants create.

I read a bit more about flowers, how they open and close up their blossoms in day and night and the opposite. My first idea was to see the system for flowers that bloom only in the night so it could be used for the facade. 

Credit: Alan
Small leaves of sacred datura plants buffer ambient thermal variation more efficiently than large leaves due to a smaller boundary layer, allowing higher amounts of transpiration.  
Credit: Eesti Kunstiakadeemia 

I found smart textiles workshop projects that were created by one department of Estonian Academy of Arts.  They have the idea of curtain but I would like to see if there are any products for facade system.
                                       Credit: Bri Weldon 
Leaves of olive trees optimize sunlight by changing shape and being flexible to changing conditions.
Sea Cucumber
Credit - Keisotyo

Some other interesting organisms:
Fibers of Euplectella (Venus Flower Basket)
Credit - NEON ja

                            Credit: Alan Wilson
Reindeer fur (water repellent > facade?) :