Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taking Inspiration from Animal Architecture

Beaver architecture - artwork by Jan Sovaki
There are some extraordinary architects amongst the animal kingdom. Our fellow mammals include many a burrow-digger or nest builder. The beaver is somewhat notorious for his ability to shape an entire landscape, redirect rivers, create lakes with dams and harvest and employ large numbers of trees. The beaver lodge is also extraordinary; a dry and cozy space with only underwater entrances.

The birds, of course, are the nest-builders par excellence, from little round, mud swallow's nests to giant flat eagle's aeries. One of the most handsome and amazing sort of nest are those woven by the weaver birds. For instance, in southest asia the Baya weaver's hanging woven nests, which are can be individual or in large colonies, are suspended often from thorny palm or acacias to make them inaccessible to predators. Southern Africa's sociable weaver builds huge, communal, multigenerational complexes. My favorite is the bowerbird; the males build bowers to attract the females and decorate them with coloured objects they find or pilfer. I was introduced to the bowerbird by David Attenborough's wonderful description.

Baya weaver photo by Ramnath Bhat
Sociable weaver nest photo by Linda De Volder
Vogelkop gardener bowerbird bower, photographed by Ingo Arndt for his recent book 'Animal Architecture', with text by Jürgen Tautz

Porky Hefer and one of his nest woven with kubu cane (via the NYT)
Such beautiful, organic nests have inspired human copycats to make some very whimsical achitectural spaces, with little more than the branches and vegetation employed by animals. Consider the high-end nests built by South African advertising-creative-director-turned-nest-maker Porky Hefer, who is inspired by weaver birds. Biomimickery in tree houses and even additions to homes!
You can get Porky Hefer's firm Animal Farm
to build you an extention on your home!
(image © Animal Farm)

Jason Fann builds nests for people as extensions on homes, and even the Treebones Resort, where you can spend a night one of his nests.
Jason Fann builds nests from tree branches from mainly eucalyptus trees in forests local to him in Big Sur, California. He weaves them together (with some counter-sunk screws to hold the structure) and builds spaces large enough for say, eight people to sit, or a couple to sleep - including in the Treebones Resort, a sort of treehouse nest hotel.

Philip Dougherty makes sculptural works directly from living trees. They allude to nests and other examples of animal architecture, as well as human activities like basketmaking. He too weaves branches and twigs together.

Philip Dougherty works directly with living trees to make works of architectural sculpture (via webecoist)

The Great Swallow by Benjamin Verdonck
The Great Swallow, a 2008 Rotterdam performance piece and sculptural human-sized swallow's nest by Benjamin Verdonck, takes biomimickery of nests to astounding and perhaps absurb heights.

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