Speculative bio-mimetic architecture

After watching BBC’s Planet earth, over and over, with the same amount of amazement and excitement as seeing it for the first time, it is really hard to pick a single favorite organism to write about. Our planet seems like an bustling inter-galactic rave with strange creatures, much bizarre than Burning man! Each on their own trip, donning trippy costumes and displaying bizarre antics!

But for the sake of this assignment, I will pick the Australian thorny devil!

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This menacing creature!

It’s called the thorny devil for a reason! But as menacing as this being may appear, it’s actually quite tiny and feeds on ants alone.  It sits and waits near ant colonies or ant trails, and with it’s sticky tongue, sucks up poor ants religiously going about their daily routine, one by one, much like a gripper atop a conveyor belt on an assembly line. It can consume thousands of ants in a day!

220px-Thorny_Devil_crop
Not so devilish after all!

This creature has a variety of tricks up its sleeve to ward off predators and survive in the hellish, arid Australian desert. From inflating its lungs to bulk up in physique to having a false head on its back to changing its color. But the one I find most interesting is that it is hygroscopic (moisture attracting) which means that it can drink water through its feet! The spikes and tiny grooves spread all over its body, concentrate dew and channelize it toward its mouth through capillary action. Watch the video below if you don’t believe me. (3:30 – 4:30, if you are in a hurry)

It’s a fascinating survival mechanism! Wasting energy in the desert can come at a significant cost, so the devil has evolved ways to eat and drink with minimum wastage of energy.

I can imagine a possible method of constructing frugal temporary shelters in a similar fashion. Much like how stalagmites are formed! But instead of solid columns being printed by dripping calcified water from top, my (hypothetical) process employs capillary action to suck up calcified water (or some such engineered liquid) against gravity to construct columns for a small shelter. Such a process would need minimum manpower and harnesses simple physics to automate the construction process, enabling multiple shelters to be constructed parallely. The entire process would look a bit like the time lapse below. But instead of just one column, you would need at least 3 of these to construct a viable house.

The task flow of this process would be –
1. To have a bed of calcified water or engineered liquid, about as big as you’d want the footprint of the house to be.
2. Place starter bricks which initiate the capillary action in a vertical direction.
3. The liquid will suck up to the surface of the brick and harden as it rises.
4. Starter bricks come in a variety of shapes, much like piping joints. Y, T and L would be the most desirable choices. Place these shaped bricks on top of a column to channelize it in different directions.
5. Once the skeleton is ready, clad it with appropriate sheets or even construct entire walls with the same method.

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