Exploration of Biomimicry in Spatial Design


“Art is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers” — by Yevgeny Yevtushenko


1.1 Introduction

We, humans, have always looked to nature for inspiration on how to improve the world around us. From the study of flight to architecture, birds are one of nature’s most rewarding and influential subject of analysis. One representative research in the study of flight is Leonardo da Vinci’s collection of observations and notes on birds. Da Vinci applied biomimicry in his study in the hope to enable human flight and designed countless sketches of proposed “flying machines”. He was not successful in building his own flying machine but his ideas lived on and inspired the Wright Brothers who finally did succeed in creating and flying the first airplane in 1903 (National Institute of Building Sciences, 2016).


1.2 Previous project “Mapping Territories”

In my previous project, I started mapping a bird’s flight and muscle movement. Figure 1 shows 30 seconds, frame by frame, of a bird’s full body and wings during flight.

all bird map

Figure 1
Mapping a Bird’s Flight


1.3 Exploring muscle and skeletal system

The bird’s muscles are very important for flight. The main ones, called “flight muscles”, are the pectoralis and supracoracoideus which help lowering and raising the wings, respectively.
The flight muscles are firmly supported by a rigid yet lightweight skeletal system.




Figure 2
Bird’s muscles sketches


Inspired by the powerful and lightweight structure of the bird’s body, I created sketch models.



1.4 Mapping wings in flight

The muscles, which make up to 35% of a bird’s body, are used to move the wings and enable lift and drag, flapping and soaring types of flight.



Left and right wings flight mapping




Mapping wings in flight


When flapping, the bird needs to maintain an exact angle of its wingspan. Since the outer part of the wing moves faster than the inner part, the wing needs to twist, so that both parts can keep the correct angle during flight. The wings twist automatically, as they are flexible. Mapping the wings during flapping shows the trajectory and twist during a bird’s flight.


1.5 Kinetic Architecture

Mapping the wings during flapping shows the trajectory and twist during a bird’s flight.

Kinetic architecture evolved in the belief that the static, permanent forms of traditional architecture were no longer suitable for use in times of major change. It was supposed to be dynamic, adaptable, capable of being added to or reduced, and even disposable.

map flight 3 stages

Mapping wings in flight


With this in my mind, I was bringing the movement into the model. I chose Arduino, as a designer is a plus to can bring technology into art. I want to map a bird flight in a kinetic ceiling, using movement and lights.

The structure is inspired by the shape of bird muscles and the movement is inspired by the sinusoidal way of bird’s flight.

For the kinetic prototype, I used only one Arduino motor for the movement.
By this Kinetic Ceiling, my goal is to explore kinetic architecture and biomimicry.



2.1 Biomimicry in Architecture

The Biomimicry Institute defines “Biomimicry as an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies “.




The Mashaad City Entrance in Iran is a kinetic structure inspired by bird’s wings.
The weight of the vehicles passing over a speed bump causes a movement in the structure’s wings, making it appear to fly. The busier the entrance, the more active the flying movements become.



Another example of a kinetic structure is the Zoomlion headquarters exhibition centre in China.
The most unique aspect of the design is the building’s ability to transform. The building contains operable parts which can be opened or closed to mimic different animal forms.



Everything in nature has evolved to meet a specific function.
Throughout history, people had a huge curiosity about bird’s ability to fly. The Wright Brothes invented and build the first aircraft.
Using V-formation shapes for designing a plane is considered by scientist as very fuel efficient.

Trains in Japan also have a design inspired by birds, due to their beak-like shape at the front, they cut down on their noise pollution and increase speed.

2.2 Feather

Looking at the structure of feathers, shape and texture, I created sketches. Here is a feather section, which I extracted as a combined element for my design.



Feather’s Section





3.1 Feather at microscope

This is the structure form of the feather when viewed under a microscope, which I observed by tracing the pattern and considering its shape and light.




Looking at wings, I created 3d models. I used Photoshop for changing the textures and 3dsMax for projections and visuals.

Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1


3.2 Feather and beak’s sketch models

Following my exploration, looking at forms and structures of feathers, I then began to investigate the forms and structures seen in birds beaks.
Bird’s beaks have different adaptations as required by their needs. As specified on Bird’s Observatory site, “any adaptation exists for a specific function”. I extracted some kinetic elements and gave them functionalities.





3.3 Spatial experimentation, inspired by the research process

Inspired by structure and form developing, I created sketch models with added functionalities. The feather has a reciprocal structure, similar to the bird’s nest, the elements are supporting each other.





4.1 Lyre bird

Going further with my design, I started looking closer to the Lyre bird and its lovely tail. The tail has 2 movements: one is the opening, like a fan, and the other is the movement from back to front, covering its head. I created sketches with different options of functionality inspired by the Lyre Bird’s tail movement.





4.2 Lyre bird sound reproduction

The Lyre bird has a perfect sound imitation, natural sounds (like birds and animals) and artificial (like car alarms and camera sounds).
I used PRO TOOLS splitting sound software to cut and compare two sounds. One is the original kookooburra sound and the other is the imitation by the Lyre bird. The reproduction by Lyre Bird has a bigger amplitude in its voice.


I choose this sound for my experiment and I extracted it into a 3D structure. This is the 3D representation of the Lyre bird’s tail movement.


4.3 Sound projected into 3D Model

In my final spatial intervention, I created an interactive spatial installation.
The TAKE FLIGHT installation responds kinetically through mimicking the forms, shapes and movement found in the research into the lyre bird, this allows for my installation to move and adjust in response to ambient sound.



5.1 Polhill campus site plan model

This is an A1 Model on exfoam board, I used lasser cutter for cutting the acrylic.



5.2 Final model

In terms of materials, I was looking at feather’s structure and I choose same transparency polycarbonate with natural wood.



5.3 CAD visuals

With the constraints of scale, I felt to provide a natural representation of my design.
I then used 3Ds Max and for rendering I used V-ray.





5.4 Plan/ Section


Section Final


Plan Final


5.5 Conclusions

The close relationship between architecture and nature has always been growing richer as we get to know the world around us better. We have learned how its systems can be adapted into designing more functional spaces which blend into a natural order.
The closer we look, the more we find. I believe we should dig deeper into further aspects of all that is natural. A bird’s ability to fly has been studied throughout history and many of its adaptations have been used, from the development of human flight to biomimicry in architecture.
Just as the Lyre bird learns new sounds from its surroundings, even if man made, we too should look back at its beautiful voice and use it to develop more aspects of our lives.



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