Biomimicry, Biomorphism, Biophila…

Since I have began to research for my final paper, I have found an array of “bio” terms that I was unaware of.  I essentially knew of their existence, but I never knew the exact definitions, nor the difference between the. So if you want to want to learn the differences between these similar, yet vastly different terms, read on!

First I will start with biomimicry. Biomimicry is essentially mimicking biology systems and processes for sustainable solutions (1). This type of practice focuses on structure, waste management, thermal environments, energy production and even material manufacturing.  Designers look to nature to help them solve complex problems or create more efficient systems in our built.  Biomimicry has been around, they believe, since humans created the first dome dwellings, believed to be inspired from the form of an egg.  Today you can see biomimicry in Calatrava’s work at the Milwaukee Art Museum in which he emulates the skeletal system.

Milwaukee Art Museum’s structure emulates that of the skeletal system.

Moving on from there, we look at biomorphisim. Biomorphisim is used by designers to emulate nature in decorative forms and symbolic associations (1).  This type of design tends to be only surface level, with no underlying natural systems. Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier were known for their use of biomorphisim.  Also, biomorphisim does not have to take on a literal interpretation; many natural symbols have been abstracted extensively, which can be seen in many of Frank Lloyd Wrights designs.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass wheat design.


Finally, biophila, which is human’s natural fondness to associate with nature, particularly that of the ecosystem features of a natural environment. Biophila is not so much a representation of nature, but rather actual nature. The practice and implementation of biophilia focuses on bringing nature to the user through large natural views, access to gardens or even scenic art pieces. The benefit of biophila is having a positive cognitive effect on people, which can increase productivity as well as recovery times.


To summarize these three terms; biomimicry emulates nature to solve design solutions in built systems, biomorphisim mimics nature in design through forms and applications, and biophila allows for a user to directly interact on different levels with nature.  With my research into these terms, I have better understanding of the broad range in which nature assists us in design.


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