Evolution of Forms in Nature: Fractal Exploration

The design process can often be challenging and protracted, but many architects find inspiration and solace in the forms of nature.  Marcos Acayaba’s house in Iporanga can be associated with natural forms in many ways.  The Brazilian wood truss system suspending the house above the ground can simply be related to the vertical aspects of tree trunks, but his design as a whole can be considered as a system of fractals.  Fractals are patterns that self-repeat to variable extents; they can be geometric structures or even processes that occurrepeatedly over time. Beauty in art and architecture is often pertains to balance, similar forms, or repetition; as subliminal or obvious as the balance or repetition may be.  The repetitive hexagons and triangles beneath the flooring in the Marcos Acayaba house is what led me to explore the topic of fractals.

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I felt compelled to experience fractals in nature first-hand.  I thus went for a long walk through the arboretum, located at the government’s Experimental Farm here in Ottawa, Canada.  The arboretum is comprises landscapes of various elevations and winding paths that are lined by native trees and shrubbery.

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  There I came across many examples of repetitive patterns in nature.  In a simple but vibrant yellow bush I saw the balance in the structure of nature.  Each branch had leaves sprouting on each side and the distance between each leaf decreased towards the end of the branch.  Repetitive motifs could be seen in the veins of each leaf, dividing and separating at a predictable ratio.

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The following images are of foliage in the trees and bushes at the arboretum.  Like the leaves on the branch, and like the veins in the leaves, the branches of the trees extend and repeat, with the distance between each branch decreasing toward the end of the branch.

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The Residencia em Iporanga is situated in Brazil. The house is amongst trees that grow, and change with the seasons.  As the house has windows along the whole exterior, and especially on the East and West sides, the lighting of the leaves and bark on the trees will greatly affect the interior spaces.  There is a certain projection of colour and light off leaves that will infiltrate and embellish the space.  I enhanced a photo of a tree that I believe would be seen at the same level as at the Brazilian house.

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The colours and opacities of the leaves opacities change every season, and will depend in part on the photoperiod of the season (e.g. long or short days), on the precipitation, and on the characteristics of the leaves themselves.  Time can never be forgotten in a space with a connection to nature.  With the wind the leaves will blow, the leaves flutter, or fall, and create dynamic shadows on the floor and walls of the house.  Not only is the Iporanga defined by its own geometry and evolution of forms, but it is also defined by its ever-changing surroundings.