elephant skull

Carol Ross Barney On the Design Lesson in an Elephant’s Skull 

The architect explains how anthropogenic designs can draw on the efficient elegance of naturally occurring structures.

I am always inspired by the elegant simplicity of structures in nature. For example, an elephant’s skull is not the dense bone mass that might be expected but an amazingly efficient and light honeycomb that makes daily life easier for the elephant. This beautiful and intricate design is one of myriad highly integrated, efficient structures that make the elephant whole.

Man-made designs should emulate these naturally integrated systems. The individual components of building cannot be simply additive. They must be congruent, balanced, and harmonious. Necessarily, this means a balanced amount of material, the least amount of energy, and the maximum amount of utility. I love simple, integrated design. It is always beautiful.

Portrait of Carol Ross Barney
Carol Ross Barney is the design principal and founder of Chicago-based Ross Barney Architects. She was recently honored with the 2021 National Design Award for Architecture and Interior Design by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Ross Barney’s notable projects include the Chicago Riverwalk, McDonald’s flagship restaurants, and the Oklahoma City Federal Building.

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