Built by Animals: Meet the creatures who inspire our homes and cities; Christiane Dorion, illustrated by Yeji Yun
The capabilities of animals never cease to amaze me and from Christiane Dorion, the author that created the award-winning Invented by Animals, comes another brilliant book about the awesome things that they do.
For as long as humankind has been on planet Earth they have had the need to build. But humans are not the only ones with an aptitude for construction. The animal kingdom is bursting with creative and ingenious animals who are able to use paws, beaks, teeth and fins to create incredible things. Animals, with their millions of years of experience in the construction industry, their unique building talents and array of impressive skills, are providing inspiration and are influencing the human world of architecture and design in the twenty-first century…
Featuring fun details and humorous illustrations, Built by Animals is a very enjoyable and rather playful look at some of the cool, quirky and incredible ‘building’ techniques that animals have mastered. Bursting with interesting information and some seriously cool STEM stuff, it not only explores the quite remarkable building talents of animals but how these skills have been developed by architects and designers and incorporated into buildings and designs around the world.
Split into various sections - construction, materials, shapes, energy and water - animals are grouped by their skills sets. Largely presented over double page spreads, each talented ‘builder’ animal introduces themselves in the first person before going on to present their skill and how it could be or has been adapted for human use. Many of these are already evident in the world: the Gherkin in London owes its design to Venus’ flower basket sponge, a temple in India looks like the self-cleaning Lotus Flower, the Esplanade Theatre in Singapore mimics the durian fruit with its ability to keep cool, the national stadium in Beijing has all the marks of a giant nest constructed by our feathered friends and the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe uses natural air-con, something that those clever ground dwelling termites have been using for thousands of years.
Humans taking a leaf out of nature’s book comes in all sorts of forms and from a wide range of animals, many of which are surprisingly small. Small is mighty when it comes to the construction industry as ants, spiders, beetles, snails, flies and worms all offer something incredible. Personal favourites are the water voles who have inspired the creation of man-made wetlands to reduce pollution in rivers from factories and farming, energy efficient lightbulbs inspired by fireflies, a beetle with uncrushable body armour provoking thoughts on how to make buildings and planes stronger and tougher, and a new, more environmentally-friendly version of cement taking inspiration from the coral polyp.
With a big look to the future and the potential ways in which humans could take inspiration from nature and harness some of the amazing building techniques, young readers are most certainly encouraged to search for better, more sustainable and more eco-friendly ways to build.
A very appealing and unusual read that will hold much appeal to a wide audience. Budding builders, designers and architects, as well as anyone with an interest in animals and STEM, will find much to enjoy and will be left with plenty of food for thought.
With huge thanks to Wide Eyed Editions and Allen & Unwin for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 7+.