Creation of artificial aesthetic systems

Learning from nature

The profound knowledge of aesthetical systems, realistic or stylised is an essential part of understanding how to create shapes in space.

Every student of design should adhere to a punctual observation of natural elements, that offer infinite examples of how forms are born, how they evolve and compete within their habitat. The findings and conclusions of such observations teach us the "evolution of a shape", and the logic behind the process.

Practical and theoretical approaches should assist and provide the base for creation of artificial aesthetics systems.

Practical means study through our senses, sight and tactile experiences of natural forms and their reproduction in drawings - but most importantly, in realistic modelling. There can be hardly anything more beneficial than understanding the structures and textures through the moulding of a formless modelling substance to an accurate reproduction of natural systems that have been diversifying millions of years into a complex world, that comprehends countless elements, that are in persistent contact, creating a neverending stream of variations. 

Theoretical approach contemplates on conclusions of the natural systems' functions. The field of biomimetics offers excellent basis for a research and implementation of how the nature works into our artificial systems.  

Bio – from the Greek “Bios” – life and “Mimesis” – imitation Emulation or imitation of natural forms, structures and systems (in design and engineering), which have proven to be optimal in terms of efectivity. (BENYUS, 1997). “The principle of biomimetics is aspiration to understand how the nature learned, not necessarily to imitate, but to apprehend the essence of qualities and characteristics of natural forms and systems, which can be applied into the concrete interpretation of architecture. (PANCHUK, N. An Exploration into Biomimicry and its Application in Digital & Parametric [Architectural]Design. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 2006. 203 s.)

One of the frst names that is connected to the roots of biomimetics is D’Arcy Tompson, emiment biologist and mathematician, often deemed to be the frst biomathematician. He pointed out to the underestimated infuence of physics and mechanics on the development of forms and structures of organisms. His book “On Growth and Form” (1917) is exceptional by the depth of insight and originality and presents a descriptive catalogue of natural forms and mathematics, that defnes them. Since its release, the book is a source of inspiration for biologists, architects and mathematicians. D’Arcy’s statement “the form of an object is a diagram of forces” is of an utmost importance, it is actual in any time, period or decade, because it presents the basis of knowledge for any creative human being, be it artist, architect or designer or any other.

Term “biomimetics” was coined in 1950s of the 20th century, by an american inventor, engineer and biophysicist Otto Schmitt, who is responsible for the research and advancement in the feld of biophysics, and introduction of biomedical engineering. Recent codifcation of biomimicry as a scientifc discipline is a credit of Janine Benyus (born 1958), author of scientifc literature. Her book “Inovations Inspired by Nature” (1997) has brought new fndings in spectrum of scientifc disciplines, which emanate from the research of forms and processes in nature. Prologue of her book presents some of the thesis and principles of biomimetic research:

1. Nature as Model – Biomimicry is a science that studies nature’s models and emulates or takes inspiration from their designs and processes to solve human problems.

2. Nature as Measure – Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the ‘rightness’of our innovations. After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned: What works. What is appropriate. What lasts.

3. Nature as Mentor – Biomimicry is a holistic way of viewing and valuing nature. It introduces an era based not on what we can extract from the natural world, but on what we can learn from it.

you can find Janine Benyus' profile on TED

Based on the latter, todays architectural or design systems and concepts can dwell and inbreathe from the today’s rich fndings and knowledge from the recently codifed feld of biomimicry. The most important applications of such fndings will assuredly be the areas of nano, micro or macrostructers, meaning the production of new, more adamant or otherwise perfected materials, or the implementation of this knowledge to designing of effective structures in architecture (more or less relating to proposed aesthetics). While today’s research and fndings propose us the scientifc ways of learning from nature, we know that in general, such inspirations have a rich history, whether it is art or architecture of the past, for example, keen and precise geometrical solutions in gothic architecture.

Cathedrals, being the greatest buildings ever built to that historical point, needed to “dispose” of their great weight, which was done in layering of their forms out to the space, grounding the corpus of the weight on a greater scale, thus stabilizing the whole structure, while not trading the stability for light, spacial aesthetics. This was an important moment, because the element of function had probably the greatest impact on aesthetics up to that time. Never before were the architectural systems so complex and profound, and therefore, we can consider the great cathedrals as the frst important implementation of logic of the natural systems.

Another important momentum in relation to understanding the natural forms and structures is the period of Secession, which has several incarnations and nomenclatures, for example Art Noveau, Jugenstil. However, Secession, considering the spirit of those times, is the most accurate attribution. It is a period of decadence and scepticism, which was after all the consequence of the great scientifc and engineering progress. This advancement has also enabled a deep insight into the forms of nature, sequeled by a widespread interest. Together with then very modern Japonism, the scientifc insight into nature brought foral or other nature inspired motives to another level of development. Botanical illustrations of Ernst Haeckel, or photophraphs of Blossfeldt are the best examples of nature’s inspect brought to a wide audience.


you can find Haeckel's "Kunstformen der Natur" here

The most innovative creator of this era considering the context is Antonio Gaudí. Gaudí strenuously studied natural forms, being aware that the reason for the beauty of natural objects is their function (more about function – beauty in appendix). In his creations, helicoid, hyperboloid, conoid and hyperbolical paraboloid were presented. However, he also presentend non-ortogonal systems.

Another important juncture is the arrival of  biomorphism, which was a bridge between the floral style of Secession and organic design. It can be said, that the narrow difference between biomorphism and organic design is that the biomorphism is the literal translation of nature, while organic design is of a symbolical reference, or it just takes certain components, patterns or systems and recreates them in the needed fashion. Moreover, organic design comprises humanistic qualities. Round forms are not used just as a stylistic element, they are conformed to human body and its soft tissue. The full emergence of the organic style was again, possible only prior to the technological advancement, forasmuch as organic furniture was usually made from wood or plastics, and the complex bending of wood or injection moulding of plastics was fully available in the frst half of the 20th century. 

Biomorphism and organic design are milestones in design, as they started abstracting the knowledge gained from the observation of nature into more or less - aesthetically original objects, while esteeming the ergonomy - reflecting the aspect of soft human tissue in the conforming lines.

However, both approaches never reached the final destination of ultimate aesthetical system, they flowed from their basis of ergnomics and organic forms, but did no offer the conclusion.

Sculptural design as a pillar of modern aesthetics

What does the "sculptural" in referrence to design mean? The term is certainly not new in the field of design and architecture, but its essence has been semantically distorted and mistaken for organic design. 

The beginings of truly sculptural shaping can be found in the art of Henry Moore, the famed british sculptor. 

photography by Sarah Jones

photography by Sarah Jones

While there are sources claiming the sculptures being of "organic" styling, such statement is insufficient, as these objects have exceeded the semantic implications of organic styling and ventured into the "self sufficient" realm of sculptural styling. 

Sculptural shaping, in its essence - is the creation of forms balanced by edged and rounded shapes applied either onto a theme, or "self originating" in space.

"Self sufficient" means the shapes do not have to adhere to any particular structural / shaping natural example, but as natural systems, they are also built on logic. The shapes can be either self originating, without any aesthetical link to the known systems, or inspired / based on a concrete logical / context link found in natural shapes.

Furthermore, sculptural systems explore the possibilities of its own tools for the creation of visual tension in space, using sharp and round planes. With these tools, the aesthetics are saturated as much as possible, and they can level with any texture and structure found in natural systems.

Emil Venkov, Torso - Pain

Emil Venkov, Torso - Pain

The creation of nature "inspired" sculptural systems revolves mainly around the functional axes of such systems. For example, joint areas or certain bone structures can be the basis, onto which stylised shaping approach is applied.

As for the design, the same applies, shapes can be "generated" or built on the functional points of the object -

example from the author's portfolio / complex sculptural  / automotive theme

example from the author's portfolio / complex sculptural  / automotive theme

example from the author's portfolio / simple sculptural design / bowl

example from the author's portfolio / simple sculptural design / bowl

Function of the object therefore provides enough basis to build aesthetics using the simple tools of logic and knowing the shapes must not be considered as solid forms, but rather as an ever forming masses of energy that interact with each other.

In conclusion, sculptural design in its true form is one of the gateways to modern design and a pillar of modern aesthetics.

Appendix - function and beauty

Gaudí was of course not the frst nor last to realize the connection between function and beauty. Tis relation has been known at least since the implementation of geometry into aesthetics. Geometry defines lines and therefore paths, that can be paths of movement or mutual action of forces, meaning those lines are in fact, paths of functionality. Another expansion of function – beauty thesis is brought by machine aesthetics in the beginning of the 20th century. In architecture, Sullivan came with his famous sentence: “Form follows function”. Nature comprises billions of elements, that are in persistent mutual action and reaction. Logically, these elements are in a constant competition – therefore, if we speak about function in nature, it is essencial to accentuate the momentum of reproduction. Based on the complexity of organisms, their tools are not only made to live, but also to be unique. To be unique, to survive the competition. If man is to incorporate the knowledge arising from the recognition of nature’s functional systems, he should not forget about the element of exceptionality, which is a condition of survival and successful reproduction. Functional alone does not mean anything, its meaning lives strong only when we set the function into a competitive system.