“Creativity is the unique and defining trait of our species,” writes biologist E.O. Wilson in The Origins of Creativity (Liveright, 2017). It is also, he argues, fundamentally biological. While architecture inspired by naturally occurring phenomena is nothing new, biomimetic materials and production methods are still making substantial inroads in the architecture and engineering industries. The following biobased products and technologies inspired by living organisms paint a compelling and creative future for the built environment in 2018.
No list of current material trends should be devoid of wood. As examples of tall timber construction make frequent news headlines, architects and designers are looking to other wood-based products for environmental and aesthetic reasons. Repurposed wood fulfills both objectives, providing the visual and tactile warmth of wood with a lower ecological footprint than other materials—including virgin wood. Netherlands-based Houtmerk makes Replex, solid wood panels made from pieces of recycled wood. The laminated boards provide visual evidence of their former lives as discarded furniture, including the profiles of decorative moldings.
British designer Tristan Titeux makes wood furniture in a similar way, by combining strips of waste materials. His Milo series consists not only of reclaimed solid wood, but also of reused particle board, plywood, medium-density fiberboard, and other forms of engineered lumber. Though not all repurposed wood products are visually pleasing or well-crafted, both Houtmerk and Titeux have devised successful means of aggregating similar cuts of old wood in aesthetically striking wholes.