I came across this video about the structure of grasscutter ant colonies again today, and was once more blown away. It’s been around for a while, but I’d recommend checking it out even if you’ve already seen it.
The stunning thing about ants, as the video points out, is that they can’t design the same way we can. There’s no cognition, no forethought, no intellectual collaboration, yet the products of their efforts can be jaw-dropping. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a hive mind, a group of creatures (usually insects) that are helpless and hopelessly unintelligent on their own, but in large enough numbers they develop a collective intelligence that far outstrips the sum of its parts. Humans are a bit like that, though for other reasons. We’re individually intelligent, but have established a collective pool of information that has endured throughout the centuries, and with the development of the internet, has become almost immediately accessible.
While I’m sure there is a lot we could learn from the ants in terms of biomimicry, I think they also serve to highlight the importance of collaboration. One thing I’ve learned from my short time in architecture is that it’s not about the individual. It’s “your building” only insofar as you’re the one pulling together ideas and providing the generative energy for the project, but the best buildings are a result of lots of different people providing insight and ideas. I think there’s a human instinct to be the lone designer, to individually solve problems and make your mark on the world, but research has shown that collaboration breeds far better ideas than individual effort. I think that shows in architecture.