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Learning from Nature: A Reflection on Natural Architecture

This tree, standing bare yet beautiful, embodies the essence of learning from nature. In my life, I have discovered that nature itself is the greatest teacher of design and construction, surpassing the lessons learned in formal education.


Birds, without any formal education, intricately weave nests using twigs, leaves, and feathers. These nests are not only functional but also exhibit remarkable craftsmanship and efficiency. Similarly, ants meticulously build colonies underground, creating complex networks of tunnels and chambers that house their colonies which also stores their food and protects them from rains, cold and heat. Honeybees construct hexagonal hives from beeswax, optimizing space and airflow to maintain the hive's temperature and humidity. Spiders spin intricate webs, utilizing silk threads to create structures that serve as both homes and traps for prey.


Beyond these examples, I have had the privilege of staying in homes, meditation centres and ashrams built by Adivasis and farmers using materials sourced directly from nature. These structures, crafted from bamboo, mud, thatch, and locally available wood, blend seamlessly with their surroundings. They reflect a deep understanding of natural materials and their sustainable use, providing comfortable living spaces that harmonize with the environment.


My journey into natural architecture was further reinforced by my ability to measure the energies and effects of built spaces on humans. Through my observations, I have found that buildings made with cement and artificial materials often have a deteriorating effect on human energies. In contrast, structures built with natural materials enhance human well-being, fostering a sense of connection and vitality.


Despite my formal architectural education, which provided valuable insights into climate considerations, spatial planning, and economic solutions, I have come to value the lessons learned directly from nature. Nature teaches us to flow freely, to innovate with natural solutions, and to coexist sustainably. It challenges us to rethink conventional building practices and prioritize environmental stewardship.


In my practice today, i have completely left conventional cement structures designing and I prioritize natural materials and sustainable building techniques. This approach not only respects the environment but also enhances the energy and vitality of occupants. While my educational background initially shaped my thinking, my experiences with natural architecture have taught me invaluable lessons in humility, adaptability, and creativity.


As we embrace the beauty of this tree in its natural state, let us reflect on the wisdom that nature offers. Let us learn to build in harmony with our surroundings, to create spaces that nurture both human life and the environment. By reconnecting with nature's teachings, we can pave the way for a more sustainable and harmonious future.


-Manjushree Rathi

Director, ME Holistic Centre

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