Aping the Termite Tower

When God created all of the astounding diversity of the earth, He called it good.  As someone who enjoys the thrill of seeing a project come to life, I can’t imagine the exhilarating anticipation followed by pure elation and eventually perfect satisfaction as God’s masterpiece came together piece by piece.  He was pleased.  By meditating on the fact that God created every part of nature, every detail of a tree, every living thing, we are amazed at the intricate yet vast, simple yet complex aspects of God’s Creation.  And He has passed on to us the challenge to continue that work.  As humans, we are image-bearers of God, our Creator, and as image-bearers we are equipped to reflect these attributes of God.

One of the newest trends in my field – interior design – is biomimicry, a look to God’s work to inform how we should do ours.  According to the Biomimicry Institute, “Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” It is essentially this thought: nature has already solved many problems that we deal with, so designers shouldn’t ‘reinvent the wheel’. Biomimicry urges designers to study elements from nature when looking for design solutions within spaces, in materiality, for energy solutions, etc. This is true genius! God is the ultimate Creator. He has created every detail of the world to function the most effectively and most efficiently. In interior design, we can use God’s model as inspiration for our model.  We can look deeply into His creative work and seek to continue and mimic it.

Termite_mounds_namibia - Cr. Commons - Lothar Herzog


African termites are astounding animals – so small that they barely stretch across your fingernail, so fragile that the sun will destroy them.  But put a few million of them together, and you’ll find a mound 17 feet high!  They will move hundreds of pounds of soil and tons of water in a year!  But herein is the challenge – they do so in Africa, where it’s HOT.  And the termites live under the ground (not in the mound, which is a common misconception).  And it can get, well, stuffy down there.  You might think the mound looks like a chimney, but that’s not how it works.  It’s full of bubble-like passages that draw air in and out, changing with the pressure.  It’s more like a living, functioning lung, constantly tuned, changed, and redesigned by the termites.  And God showed them how to do it.

And they’ve showed us through the work of scientists who study them.  New, modern, energy-efficient passive cooling systems have been inspired by these termite towers in Africa. Similarly, the design of one light was inspired by the biology of fireflies. Bubbles inspired a sturdy architectural feature that stretched across the pool during the Beijing Olympics.   God created, and it was good.  And as designers, we can use these insights – from God’s creation – to better do what He has given us as a vocation – to create and design.


Michelle Bendit interns at a commercial design firm in Washington, DC and is a participant in the 2015-2016 Falls Church Fellows Program.

Photos: Creative Commons/J Brew, Lothar Herzog

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  • Katelyn

    I love how this takes the idea of man being made in the image of God and draws a parallel where the creative work we have been designated is based on the image of God’s creation.

  • Cara Brown

    I have never heard of biomimicry before, but it seems to be a fantastic idea! Creative design is all around us, if only we would bother to look. God has already created so many ideas and objects that we can see and enjoy on this earth, so why wouldn’t we follow His example? In addition, while we are finite in our creativity, He is infinite in His! What could be more sustainable than infinite solutions?!