March 24, 2009 London may have The Gherkin but it’s not a patch on the cactus-inspired design for the new Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture (MMAA) building in Qatar. The spectacular office building and adjoining botanical dome is a great example of biomimicry, a discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. This increasingly prominent approach has yielded advances in fields as diverse as aerodynamics, robotic navigation, clothing design, UAVs and the detection of water pollution. It seems that architects too can learn from nature.

The design, by Bangkok-based firm Aesthetics Architects GO Group, takes its form from the hardy cactus plant with it’s ability to thrive in harsh desert climates, very apt for Qatar, a hot country covered in sand which has an average rainfall of only 3.2 inches.

The MMAA building, dubbed the cactus project has been designed with energy efficiency in mind; sun shades on the windows can be opened or closed to suit the prevailing temperature (thus mimicking the activity of the cactus which performs transpiration at night rather than during the day in order to retain water). The dome at the base of the tower will house a botanical garden which for extra green points could include an edible garden and use plants to clean up waste water.

Karen Sprey

View gallery - 4 images