by Jerry ElengicalSep 13, 2023
Biomimetic architecture takes inspiration from construction principles found in the natural world. From the natural environment to the functional ergonomics of various species, technological exploration has been developing hand-in-hand with explorations in form-making. The term biomimetic architecture was popularised by Janine Benyus in her 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. There has been a correlation between biomimicry and the idea of sustainable architecture since its popularisation, a fact that is also highlighted in the book. We have to acknowledge the difference between sustainable architecture and sustainable construction. While a building may be energy efficient and have a net-zero carbon footprint on completion, the environmental impact of its construction rarely is. This does not take away from the importance of conceptualising and proposal structures that sustainably respond to their immediate surroundings.
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in architecture that not only replicates natural forms but also incorporates their functional attributes. A 3.8-hectare plot on Cagbalete Island, in the Quezon province of the Philippines, is home to one such proposal. The Cagbalete Sand Clusters by Carlo Calma Consultancy combines the ideals of sustainability to create a new typology for eco-tourism that works in tandem with local culture, which revolves primarily around farming and fishery. The client expressed their desire to create farm lots as part of the development. The proposed structure incorporates a radial site development, consisting of hyperbolic clusters in a progressive unit system which is inspired by corals, and references the rich marine life and biodiversity of the archipelagic country.
Made up of a prefabricated set of parts, the structure resembles corals to set up a unit system that can grow horizontally or vertically. The resulting amalgamation is meant to be a community-building that nurtures ecology for its surroundings by integrating the programmatic and cultural context of its locale into the architecture. The structure is a mixed-use development, which consists of a private family home and a farm-to-table restaurant that focuses on the use of endemic plant species with a portal dedicated to seasonal mud crab farming.
One of the conditions taken under consideration in the mud crab farm is its potential to help prevent soil erosion. Instead of defrosting the surrounding mangroves, the proposal is formulated to help protect them. The coastal reference does not end there, the studio also incorporated a local fishing net called hapa as an additional membrane that is draped over the architectural fold of the coral inspired units. The hapa nets also function as a ‘veil’ over the structure and act as translucent skin that masks sun and rain; it also serves as informal sleeping areas for afternoon siestas. The hapa is transformed into something beyond its utilitarian origins. It functions as a part of the structure’s construction membrane, a tool for food production, and a web that facilitates the daily activities of the structure’s inhabitants.
Electricity is harvested from a bespoke solar umbrella pod, while the spaces themself utilise natural ventilation. The structure is imbued with a flexibility that allows for it to be transformed throughout the different seasons, native to the tropical archipelago. As part of the structure’s tourist program, the units also include a wellness grotto with salt water, with mud and dipping pools, providing a sensorial experience at night as the development transforms into a glowing, plankton-like space with multi-level galleries, performance spaces, and lighthouse functionality.
Cagbalete Sand Clusters is a dynamic space for both its inhabitants and visiting tourists. The proposed design explores the inherent values of locality and sense of place in this project but through more ethical means of development.
Cagbalete Sand Clusters won the Food Category of the WAFX Awards 2021, and the project was also one of the shortlisted entries for the World Architecture Festival, which to be held this December 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Name: Cagbalete Sand Clusters
Location: Taguig, Philippines
Lead Architect: Carlo Calma Consultancy Inc. (CCC Inc., Philippines)
Consultants: Multi Development and Construction Corporation (MDCC) (Philippines), Gallery by Chele (Philippines)
Client: C Ideation