By Polina Moroz, February 2016.
First association with the site of our future project is its mesmerizing paternity. Zellige (enamel tilework), muqarnas (three-dimensional geometric designs), banna’i (glazed tiles, alternated with plain bricks) are just a few among traditional decorative techniques one sees everywhere in local architecture. According to a painter and art historian Wijdan Ali “the proliferation of arabesque abstract decoration enhances a quality that could only be attributed to God, namely, His irrational infinity” (The Arab Contribution to islamic Art, 2000)(1).
However, what other functions besides symbolism and aesthetic pleasure could be derived to those patterns? Leaving aside an instance of Mashrabiya, carved window wooden screens, examples could be drawn from pattern analogues in the animal world.
Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum), with the southwestern US origin and the Australian thorny devil (Moloch horridus) have one thing in common. Both species use their spiky skin not only for defense reasons. Honeycomb-like scale structures form a complex network of micro-channels (2). They serve to collect and transport water in the mouth direction. Moloch horridus (pic.1) directs water flow from its belly or legs, while Phrynosomta cornutum (pic.2), having visibly flattered back, collects dew and raindrops.
Scientific experiment with replicating lizard’s scale structure in plastic demonstrated that the air humidity condensation is improved on this surface by about 100% in comparison to unstructured surfaces. This allows the animals to collect moisture with their entire body surface without significant water uptake through the skin itself. Furthermore micro ornamentation provides a superhydrophilic surface, and what’s most amazing — passive and directed! water movement. (2)
Asymmetric capillaries enable directional liquid transport, while interconnections help the liquid to extend the transport distance(4).
Efficiency of this passive water flow principle in large scale construction yet to be investigated. However, natural structure incorporated into traditional facade ornaments brings images of new ways of court gardens watering and evaporative air cooling systems.
Links and Resources:
- “The Aesthete: Exploring Geometric Patterns in Islamic Art” by Mitchell Owens for AD
- “Moisture harvesting and water transport through specialized micro-structures on the integument of lizards “ , , , , and
“Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles” Laurie J. Vitt,Janalee P. Caldwell
The Royal Society publishing, “Directional, passive liquid transport: the Texas horned lizard as a model for a biomimetic ‘liquid diode’”
- Thorny Devil water transport video