The Bionic Building in the Mediterranean climate. The Musical Seine of Paris

We have already had the opportunity to describe an example of bionic building and to explain what a bionic building is, intended as an evolved building. Bionic designers use two different approaches to elaborate their projects.

  • With the first approach, the designer imitates the external appearance of natural forms, thus obtaining buildings that reflect the beauty of nature and the environment surrounding it;
  • With the second approach, the designer works looking at the structure, the external and internal relations present in nature and the proportions of its components. This means that the relationships found in nature are simulated and implemented, in relation to the creative and structural phases.

Cases of application of the first and second approach are:

  • The tropism, the movement of an organism or part of it determined by the action of an external stimulus;
  • Phototropism, the property of an organism to orient itself with respect to light;
  • Heliotropism, the property of an organism to orient itself with respect to the sun.

These are 3 concepts applicated effectively for adaptive architecture, allow to capture or remove solar energy, to get as close as possible to thermo-hygrometric well-being determined by the external and internal climatic conditions of the building.

Building envelope in bionic building in Mediterranean climate.

One of the “secrets” of a bionic building is the envelope, the skin of the building. A building envelope that meets the needs of a bionic building must be designed to use renewable energy sources ffor heating and air conditioning. Furthermore, it must also be able to dynamically manage incoming and outgoing energy flows, in terms of energy gains and losses.

Dealing with bionic architecture involves a different attitude towards architecture. According to the pioneers in this field, the strength and purpose of this architecture lie in the use of elements that adapt to the natural environment, making buildings more sustainable. One of the main objectives of bionic architecture is to make a building alive and show its real feasibility.

Bionic Building Seine Parigi

The climate of Paris is not Mediterranean but temperate. However, during the summer season, continental influences are possible which can make some days particularly warm. This example well represents one of the most interesting bio-architectural works of Shigeru Ban, who has always made green building one of its strengths and represents an important case to understand how a building transforms, adapting itself in the presence of particular environmental conditions.

Therefore, the attention paid to a building such as the Seine Musicale is a useful study for the application of bionic architecture in Mediterranean contexts, such as Italy. What is interesting here is that the possibilities offered by advanced technologies can be exploited not only as a way of energy savings, but above all as an innovative element capable of improving the quality of life in indoor environments.

The task of the building envelope

In fact, despite the variability that characterizes the external environment, the task of the building envelope is to ensure that the conditions within the building are permanently more comfortable. This implies the control of all aspects of environmental well-being, both lighting, acoustic and thermo-hygrometric, and the correct use of energy.

A correct design of the envelope building allows a greater insulation of the houses from the external temperatures and consequently allows a reduction in energy consumption. In our country, on the other hand, most of the buildings are not isolated or are completely inadequate.

Even a nearly zero energy building is equipped with traditional plants. In fact, in some cases, especially in countries with a Mediterranean and humid climate, it is necessary to integrate bioclimatic technologies and non-renewable energy systems.

The characteristics of the Musical Seine of Paris

From the point of view of a new bionic approach to the project, an original case is that of the Seine Musicale in Paris. The latest futuristic project by the Japanese archistar Shigeru Ban and the French Jean de Gastine, realized in 2017. The Seine Musicale is a musical citadel of about 35000 square meters, built on the Ile Seguin, a small island on the Seine, in the municipality of Boulogne -Billancourt, on the ancient industrial site of Renault, respecting its identity with its large concrete volumes.

The building is characterized by an auditorium with the iconic ellipsoid volume, inspired by the shape of a large vessel on the banks of the Seine, although the Parisians have already renamed it as “the glass egg”. It is set on a hexagonal-based structure made up of 4,000 square meters of glass and more than 1,700 elements of carpentry of fiber-reinforced laminated wood (Glulam) of spruce and beech designed, supplied and assembled by Hess Timber. In total there are 900 cubic meters of wood.

The structure supports a large sail 45 meters high, set on a metal reticular structure and covered by a layer of 800 square meters of photovoltaic panels, to maximize in this way the thermal accumulation and the exploitation of a renewable source of energy supply. Every fifteen minutes, the sail rotates like a sunflower (according to the principle of heliotropism), orienting and following the rotation of the sun and providing the whole complex with all the energy it needs.


Internal wall Seine Parigi


A mosaic of iridescent colors from green to red decorates the acoustic envelope, while the interior is characterized by the more angular geometry of a ceiling formed by an assembly of strips of wood, paper and cardboard, and by wooden paneling on the walls. This creates an environment with a dense and harmonious pattern. Coming out, the promenade reveals the wooden structure and the panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.

Ceiling Seine Parigi


Of course, the actual budget of the intervention will be detectable over time, but the futuristic project is another food for thought that shows the attempt to insert a building within the “ecosystem energy flows”, to draw resources from the environment for its own climate balance.

What is an example of a bionic building that you know? Suggest and propose in the comments

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