Symbiotic Living

Symbiotic Living Graphic.jpg

Symbiotic Living:

[24hr competition | BIomimetic]

The [204] Design Collective participated in the 20th edition of ideasforward’s 24hr Architectural Competition - Biomimetic (

The brief called for students and professionals in architectural disciplines to conceptualize collective housing designs/solutions looking to nature and natural systems for inspiration, “Inspired by the principles of biomimetics, we challenge you to design a collective housing building”.

The following is an excerpt from our submission:

Symbiotic Living : Can urban collective housing remedy issues of human displacement?

In nature, challenges and threats to one organism are abated or eradicated by forming a positive reciprocal relationship with another organism that lives in close proximity. Through this relationship called Symbiotic Mutualism, the organisms involved support each other’s, and in the process, their own development and survival. These behaviours have evolved over time as adaptations and reactions to fluctuations in constantly changing environments. Examples of symbiotic mutualism can be seen in lichens that share structural and nutritional resources in environments where both are scarce. Additionally sea anemones provide safe shelter for clownfish who in turn provide nutrients and protection from other predatory fish.

This behaviour found naturally in almost every ecological community and performed by many different species forms the conceptual basis for this design: Symbiotic Living.

Urban centres have become the stage upon which globalisation, increasing population, climate change, and income inequality are developing and debated. At the confluence of all these issues is housing. With 70% of the world population expected to reside in cities by 2050[1], the challenges of and problems with urban housing will only escalate, especially in megacities such as Mexico City, Shanghai, and Delhi.

Collective housing can remedy many urban dwelling issues that afflict local populations such as segregation, isolation, economic inequality, and scarcity. Additionally, collective housing can be designed and adapted to target the pressing and complex issue of human displacement. Suspended between shelters, camps, or boarders, displaced persons require a place of transition to buffer the functional and emotional strain of being rendered homeless, often in foreign communities and/or countries. By serving the basic needs of displaced communities while acting as a functional alternative to traditional urban living, collective housing can be designed to remedy the seemingly independent issues of human displacement and urban housing.

Inspired by the singular shape of the Samara fruit, the shape and configuration of the living units resemble the fruit’s papery wings. The resulting structure in plan view mimics the pattern of movement of a Samara - spiraling and fluttering in the wind to disperse seed. This act of anemochory performed by the Samara fruit exemplifies the mutualistic symbiotic system which this design creates for its inhabitants: a natural precedent for protecting, supporting, and sheltering one another.

Collective Living: The flats are designed to host displaced persons in their time of need. Each permanent resident pays subsidized rent to assist with costs that arise when new residents move in. This building will be directed towards the needs of people who have been displaced by any type of natural disaster or man-made disasters, including war and global warming. These people will be temporarily placed in a pod with permanent residents. This mutualistic relationship ensures that the displaced residents are receiving support and shelter while the permanent resident benefits from rent control activities and urban mixité.

Units: Each flat is 85 sq metres and is ideally designed for 3-bedrooms. The flats provide the necessities for comfort however amenities such as gym, laundry, and office spaces are shared throughout the building.

Population: Each tower has 18 flats radiating from its nucleus. It is intended that the Symbiotic Living model could grow taller and disperse further in response to global need.

Communal Spaces: Social spaces proposed every 6 floors in attempt to combat the negative effects and affects of high density living.

Services: Catering to the needs of displaced populations including Internet cafes, child services, community/religious centres, and laundromat.

The ‘Symbiotic Living’ model provides temporary solutions to immediate problems for displaced populations, seeking to provide what they need physically, socially and emotionally. This model is an exercise in designing future urban living conditions that respond to immediate world issues - an important field of study and development in urbanism that The Collective strives to address in our designs and in our work.



Symbiotic Living Poster.jpg