Exploration Architecture


Biomimicry Museum

Cactus spines and camel’s nostrils inspire design for Middle East museum

Exploration has designed a dramatic new museum inspired by the nature and culture of the Middle East region. Visitors will enter over an oasis garden supplied with water captured from the air by a roof surface inspired by cactus spines and camel’s nostrils. The rear part of the museum is a lightweight concrete enclosure based on the structural efficiency of bird skulls.

The project is the result of a collaboration with communications consultants Pulse Group and museum consultants Peter Dye and Keith Ifould. The museum is to be both an exhibition of ground-breaking biomimetic technologies (inspired by adaptations in biology) as well as a demonstration of how this can produce innovative, resource-efficient architecture.

The design of the large entrance canopy is based on three technical ideas: the ancient Middle Eastern art of ice-making (which produced ice in the desert long before modern refrigeration), the moisture capture adaptation found in camel’s nasal ‘turbinates’ and the water harvesting characteristics of Opuntia cactus spines. The result is a roof surface which can capture distilled water from the air and supply a collection of rare Middle Eastern plants in an oasis garden. Hospitality spaces and an amphitheatre for evening performances are situated within and adjacent to the garden. Director Michael Pawlyn observes “Extreme environments like deserts often reveal some of the most ingenious biological adaptations that can inspire new solutions for architects and engineers”

After passing through the oasis garden visitors will enter the main enclosure that contains displays of biologically inspired technologies. Biomimicry has already been used extensively in transport engineering (to design quieter trains, more efficient planes and higher performance cars), in medical design (to produce biodegradable glues for use in surgical operations) and in sports equipment. This project shows the potential for high performance architecture that can be self-sufficient in water and energy even in extreme environments. This project builds on our long-term interest in highly efficient solutions and dramatic long-span enclosures. Pier Luigi Nervi and Felix Candela were pioneers of this approach – now we have the advantage of better scientific knowledge and previously unparalleled digital design tools”according to Project Associate Yaniv Peer.

Project team

Architect: Exploration Architecture

Communications Consultants: Pulse Group

Museum Consultants: Peter Dye and Keith Ifould