Nature is the source for some of humanity's first design ideas. For example, consider how prehistoric fishing nets resembled spider webs, or how ancient roundhouses look a lot like turtle shells. In Australia, kangaroo pouches must have seemed like a good idea to aboriginal peoples as they devised woven garments to carry their own young across the Outback. The trend has come back around and we are now seeing more and more human inventions that take a direct cue from the designs of the natural world. One of the warmest, fuzziest veins in the biomimicry movement is the inspiration bird nests have provided designers in creating cozy human habitats.
A bed is certainly the most obvious human adaptation of a bird’s nest. Many designers have attempted this concept and the results include both hanging and floor-supported models. O*GE CreativeGroup has created a kid-themed version; a no-brainer given that bird nests are for raising wee ones. It’s round in shape and huge—perfect for slumber parties. Dedon makes two hanging versions: one with a teardrop shape, and another that resembles a flying saucer, which comes with an optional mosquito screen. For a handmade human bed-nest constructed with all-natural materials, check out the designs by South African artist Porky Hefer. To complete your nest-inspired bedroom set, you may want to consider the nest chair by designer Emily Pilloton.
Not surprisingly there have been many attempts to expand the nest concept beyond a bed to encompass larger human habitats. One humble version is the “spirit nest“ treehouse by Jayson Fann in Big Sur, California. Made from locally-harvested eucalyptus branches, these nests aren’t meant for full-time living so much as providing an enchanting garden retreat. If you’re traveling in Sweden, however, you can stop over for a night at the Tree Hotel. Whether in rain, sleet or snow this fantastical perch sleeps two adults and two children in ultra-modern comfort. Designed by the Swedish firm Inrednin Gsgruppen, it is just one of many rooms available in the boutique hotel, all of which are suspended in the trees, though not all are nest-shaped.
Architects are constantly taking cues from bird nest construction and incorporating them into their designs, but in the context of designing an entire home, the nest idea becomes more abstract. For starters, there is the Nest House by a21studio in Thuan An, Vietnam, which is a low-budget riff on the nest concept that uses criss-crossed steel lattice in the exterior façade. The exterior lattice doubles as a support structure for vines and the resulting intersections of straight, crisp lines (the steel) and loose, organic forms (the vines) does give it a nest-like vibe. In Singapore, there’s a high-end version by WOHA, also called Nest House, which uses a random arrangement of lightweight aluminum rods to create a woven pattern around the home’s exterior. One of the most truly nest-like large-scale structures isn’t a residence, but a stunning equestrian center outside Prague. Designed by SGL Projekt, it’s appropriately built at Stork’s Nest Farm, and with a diameter of over 100 feet it’s proportionately sized for its namesake giant birds.
The famous “bird’s nest” stadium built by Herzog and DeMeuron with Ai Weiwei for the 2008 Olympics is surely the largest structure in the world that uses the nest concept. The curved steel beam structure doubles as a façade, appearing much like the supple twigs, straw, and bits of grass that birds use in the act of nest-weaving. The open spaces in the roof are filled with giant inflatable cushions on an as-needed basis to provide relief from the elements—much like how many avian species use bark and moss to line their nests to insulate themselves from cold weather.
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