How architects and setters rediscover nature

Biophilic design

The Gardens by the Bay in Singapore are part of a strategy to transform the garden city into a city in the garden to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. © unsplash.com, timJ
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People who think modern architecture often inevitably have things in their mind's eye, in which the lines are reduced to very simple geometric patterns and few natural forms and materials are used. However, although simplicity of design is still an important credo in the minds of the architectural industry, many thought leaders have long been much further ahead - and are, strictly speaking, on the retreat.

From climate change to sand consumption

Buildings are perhaps the most obvious feature of modern man. At least that with the longest survival time. What Sumerians, Egyptians, Romans and Co. built, survived the millennia often surprisingly unscathed. No other living thing on earth is able to claim that.

However, no other living thing can claim to have such an inglorious impact on the biosphere of our planet.

Housing construction and facilities may, at least compared to traffic, at first sight play a very minor role, if one looks more closely at the challenges of climate change. In fact, our construction and furnishing activities have not negligible effects - on nature as well as thinking.

Perhaps the most startling example: on earth, the sand is scarce. Not a bad joke, but a result of human concrete hunger. China alone built more concrete between 2011 and 2013 than the US did throughout the 20th century - and the Americans are enormously concrete-affine. display

Whole forests are cleared to shred the wood and make chipboard from it, the world's most important raw material for furniture production. And even up to the plastic that is necessary for the veneering of these panels, right through to paint and glue, our modern construction and furnishing world is a very artificial, energy-intensive, environment-damaging world.

This is exactly the reason why the scene is undergoing a rethink that is slowly developing into an avalanche.

Hard as granite, as constant as a tree

For the architects and designers, one of the most pressing problems is to combine several factors:

  • The stylistic appearance is the highest criterion. What an architect thinks, must be implemented in his optics with a reason why concrete is so omnipr sent, he can form plasticine-just any shape.
  • It follows the feel. How something feels is directly linked to the building material.
  • Lifespan is another important reason. Especially today, when consumers are embracing more and more sustainable thinking, they want to avoid short-term furnishing.

And it is becoming more and more common to see that it is best to focus on nature, especially in environmental terms, rather than by detours or references. At the same time the development, graphically, often continues:
Development process Public domain Originally, all construction / furnishing materials were natural. When the first artificial building materials were created, one did not try to give them a "camouflage", but a neutral look such as the monochrome formica table of a table.

Let's take the kitchen worktop as an excellent example. Actually, they are known today primarily as a classical field of operation for the combination of thick chipboard with a veneer of plastic applied thereon, which is available either in wood or stone look. So the endpoint of graphic U. For decades, that was the gold standard. Then the conversion began:

It was only since the 2000s that the visual appeal to natural materials has been reduced as countertops that were plainly held in plain or geometric (such as checkerboard pattern) looks spread. And today, it has become the hallmark of high-quality kitchen countertops that they once again show themselves in genuine natural materials, such as solid granite, or at least in natural materials such as ceramics and glass that are perceived as natural. This will bring you back to the starting point.

And with many other materials a similar transformation can be traced back to the wall cladding, which is deliberately made of sheet metal, which may develop into forced patina or even rust.

The farewell to geometric concrete designs is difficult. It is the living absence of ornaments that many architects love so much. © unsplash.com, Victor Garcia

From the edge to the mainstream

It has to be said that this is not really a new rethinking process. This would mean that at some point in history, architecture and interior design have stopped relying on nature or naturalness.

Both fields of activity never have - but for many years they were so small that they became the fringe group that floated as a "biophilic design" against the huge mainstream stream. It consisted of things that today are at best apologized for as a building sin - such as the naked fair-faced concrete brutalism, which in its fullest seriousness called nature-bound the grain of wood cladding pressed into the concrete.

Today Biophilic Design has become an important point in the thinking and behavior of many architects. However, the layman has to get away from the basic idea that only pure natural materials are also "natural". That would ultimately break down into log cabins with solid wood interiors and natural stone floors - certainly for some culmination of cosiness, but not the mainstream. Especially as design involves much more than just materials.

For this reason, today's naturalness is characterized by some broader basic ideas:

  • No sharp boundaries, but flowing transitions between inside and outside.
  • A lot of natural light - the meanwhile large windows in residential construction are a result of this.
  • Curved, harmonious lines - nature knows neither right angles nor exact distances.
  • Light, sometimes filigree, but not artificially playful language of forms.
  • Use of natural features in the interior, such as plants and water features.
  • Use largely natural, but at least without major Umformungsschritte and without chemicals use (keyword plastic) producible materials.
  • Where more complex materials are needed is set to recycled.

Such a catalog offers architects and designers much more scope to work out ideas.

However, it must be underlined that the development has not yet reached the end point. In fact, we are currently even in a high phase of tinkering, which also calls material researchers on the plan.

We have already reported on a success: wood, which becomes as stable as steel through a comparatively simple method and can thereby become a real alternative. Next is the desire to create plastics that are not based on the petrochemical industry, which has been used almost exclusively for this purpose - the coffee grounds coffee is an expression of this way of thinking, which also proves how enormous the creative output is.

Even the much-criticized concrete still has its place in this world: As carbon concrete, which is reinforced with carbon fibers instead of steel. This makes it possible, with otherwise the same load capacity, to create unequal filigree shapes that end with the two main criticisms (the material consumption and the look).

At TU Dresden, work was resumed just after a reckless return with test buildings (there were worries that the carbon fibers might be as dangerous as asbestos be).

Now that these concerns have been dealt with, research is continuing - for the path to a more natural construction future is still far away.