Can an insect teach architecture?

Can you guess what the above pic is about?

These giant sky-lantern shaped architecture on the rural landscape of Ethiopia are meant for harvesting water from the air, known as the Warkawater Project Architecture and Vision group. Warka is the name of a common Ethiopian fig tree.

The next question could be: Well, how does it work?

The detail may not be given by the key designer of the group, Arturo Vittori, but he discusses how such beautiful structures are built out of simple stuff and his vision towards changing the deprived areas where women and children spend a long journey just to collect water from the available resources.

Not only the journey is long, the water resources are not clean not and there are high risks of rape and abduction.

Now let’s get back to the question: what could be the engineering mechanism behind the architecture? Don’t laugh, an insect might be the best buddy to answer you.

Namib Beetle

Namib Beetle

Namib Beetles or the Namibian Desert Beetles (Stenocara gracilipes) are found in the Namib Desert of the southwest coast of Africa. It is one of the driest desert of the world. Despite the arid climate, Namib Beetles know how to survive. Their wind-covering shells have a perfect combination of uneven hydrophilic (water attracting) and hydrophobic surfaces (water repelling) which finally helps them to store water from a moist surrounding.

The idea of fog harvesting is not new. In fact, one should know this Indian and ex-IItian chap, named

Shreerang Chhatre, who came into the news during his PhD+MBA program in MIT for developing a mesh that can harvest water from the moist. The Namib Beetle purely inspired him (a nice presentation here) and if such an inspiration comes into a practical implementation, it is called biomimicry or biomimetics (e.g. Velcro tapes mimic burrs).