More architects are inspired by natural forms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 October, 2008, 12:00am

More architects are designing buildings inspired by nature. Beijing has its 'Birds Nest' created by Herzog & de Meuron, and Guangzhou will have its Zaha Hadid-designed 'twin boulders', which will be Guangzhou opera house buildings, next year. People enjoy the idea of architecture imitating nature. Occasionally we label a building something animal, vegetable or mineral even when its architect was not thinking that way, as with London's 30 St Mary Axe also called the 'gherkin'.

The biggest feats of construction inspired by nature are appearing in Dubai, where the Palm Jumeirah, the first of several palm tree-shaped land reclamations, has been created. The largest of these palms, the Palm Deira, will be a city of 1.5 million people when completed in 2018. In the emirate's most audacious scheme, a flattened version of planet Earth is being created. The World is an archipelago of 300 islands covering 54 sqkm laid out like a map.

The idea behind Dubai's palms has pollinated, because several thousand kilometres away a smaller palm-shaped structure is being created off the coast of Malaysia. The Golden Tree Palm Resort in the Sepang Gold Coast stretches 1.2km into the warm waters of the Straits of Malacca. Nearly 400 holiday villas will be built on its trunk and fronds.

While some of the biggest structures are out to sea, others are more vertical. The world's highest residential tower, the 610 metre Chicago Spire designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, is under construction. Described as an 'oversized drill bit' by some bemused Chicagoans, the twisting, tapering form of the 150-storey tower was inspired by the form of shells and tulips, and an earlier Calatrava building, the Turning Torso Tower in Malmo, Sweden, which was based on the form of a twisting human torso.

Modern architects can design organic-looking structures that seem like they should fall down but don't, thanks to digital technology.

Nature-inspired buildings are not new. According to some archaeologists, the pyramids at Giza were designed to resemble mountain peaks. Ironically, even with so much computer wizardry at their disposal modern architects and engineers are left wondering how the ancient Egyptians built those structures.

For their part, the pharaohs would probably marvel at our palms, birds nests and gherkins.