Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature

7 February – 11 April 2014

  • Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature. Courtesy Daniel Hewitt
  • Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature. Courtesy Daniel Hewitt
  • Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature. Courtesy Daniel Hewitt
  • Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature. Courtesy Daniel Hewitt
  • Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature. Courtesy Daniel Hewitt
  • Coral. Courtesy Exploration Architecture
  • Melon shell. Courtesy Exploration Architecture
  • The Sahara Forest Project. Courtesy The Sahara Forest Project Foundation
  • Biomimetic Office Building. Courtesy Exploration Architecture

The Architecture Foundation was delighted to present Exploration Architecture: Designing with Nature, the first ever solo show of Exploration, a thought-leading architecture and design practice working in the field of biomimicry.

An immersive display and striking 3D printed installation showcased a selection of four projects and prototypes from the studio’s cutting-edge research on sustainable, nature-inspired design, including two new, previously unpublished designs. Study models, sketches, infographics, and specially commissioned short films introducing Exploration’s projects were presented alongside a myriad of natural specimens that inspired the designs – offering unique insight into the studio’s practice of learning from nature in order to deliver future-facing solutions for architecture, systems design and materials production that address the major challenges of our age.

Showcasing Exploration’s working philosophy and embracing 3D printing’s capacity for radically increased resource efficiency, the exhibition’s central installation took the form of a long sweeping display designed to showcase innovative SKO software – a structural optimisation computer programme based on the adaptive growth patterns of trees and bones – which was created with support from large-scale 3D printing pioneer Lukas Oehmigen of BigRep and Ultimaker.

At a time when architecture and society more broadly urgently need to reconsider their relationship to the natural world and move towards a more ecologically sustainable future, the exhibition offered a timely showcase of biomimicry, and the innovative approach to design and resource use it offers. The Architecture Foundation was delighted to have partnered with Interface, a pioneer in applying biomimicry to industrial design challenges, as a headline sponsor for this exciting exhibition that presented this emerging design discipline to a UK audience. 

The exhibition was accompanied by a public programme of events expanding on the themes of the exhibition, including a headline event featuring Exploration Director Michael Pawlyn, as well as broader debate exploring wider questions about the relationship between science, mathematics and the natural world.

Curated by Exploration Architecture and The Architecture Foundation.

Michael Pawlyn established Exploration in 2007 to focus exclusively on biomimicry. In 2008 Exploration was short-listed for the Young Architect of the Year Award and the internationally renowned Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Prior to setting up the company Michael Pawlyn worked with Grimshaw architects for ten years and was central to the team that radically re-invented horticultural architecture for the Eden Project. He was responsible for leading the design of the Warm Temperate and Humid Tropics Biomes and the subsequent phases that included proposals for a third Biome for plants from dry tropical regions. Pawlyn has lectured widely on the subject of sustainable design in the UK and abroad, and in May 2005 delivered a talk at the Royal Society of Arts with Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface. In 2007 he delivered a talk at Google’s annual ‘Zeitgeist’ conference and in 2011, became one of only a small handful of architects to have a talk posted on TED. com. In the same year, his book Biomimicry in Architecture was published by the Royal Institute of British Architects. He is currently working on a range of biomimicry-based architectural projects and a book commissioned by TED (planned for completion/release early 2014).

Established in 2007, Exploration is an innovative architectural practice that draws its inspiration from nature. As leaders in the field of Biomimicry the practice has had the pleasure of working with some of the most visionary clients and brilliant proponents of biomimicry. Exploration have cultivated relationships with a wide range of experts and collectively bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to any project they are asked to undertake. Exploration believe that there are huge environmental and economic benefits to be gained from studying the design solutions that nature has developed with the benefit of a 3.8 billion year R&D period and their portfolio demonstrates the advantages of this approach. The architecture is richer, the environmental impact is radically reduced and their clients benefit from efficiencies they never expected to receive. Several of the projects with which Exploration have been involved have achieved factor ten efficiency savings and, in one case, a factor one hundred saving. 

Headline Sponsor:


In-kind support:

Lukas Oehmigen, BigRep