Inspiration from Nature: Digital Exploration of Materials, Structure, and Form in Architecture

September 2011

Since antiquity man has been fascinated and awed by the beauty of the natural world—e.g., in the regular patterns of crystals, living creatures (simple animals, plants, and flowers) or their parts, or even the human form.

Architects in particular have found inspiration in natural forms, as demonstrated in the shells comprising the Sidney Opera House and the regular grids and ornament found in Gothic cathedrals. Structures in nature—from rocks to shells to sponges and sea urchins—represent some of the most elegant and sophisticated forms, demonstrating complicated design and engineering principles.

Digital techniques have advanced dramatically in recent years, offering an exciting opportunity to represent, analyze, create, fabricate, and simulate architectural forms inspired by nature.

The exploration of this research topic holds promise to advance the science of computer graphics, by identifying new challenges, and also to benefit the practice of architecture, by enabling new capabilities to integrate considerations of aesthetics, materials, structure, and environmental controls. This proposed exploratory seminar will bring together experts in architecture, computer science, applied math, chemistry, physics, and material science to discuss this topic and outline concrete research directions.