Some buildings look like they were unearthed by nature itself, while others stand out from their landscape with jarring aesthetics certain to provoke emotion. For the architects who designed these buildings, inspiration can come from many sources. Here are some examples and comments from the pros on what inspires architectural design.

What inspires architectural design?

The natural environment has been a massive influence on architectural design, dating back to the beginnings of the field itself. Today, much more extravagant buildings have been designed to mimic blooming flowers, birds’ nests and blend in with lakefronts. From Architectural Digest’s 7 gorgeous examples of nature-inspired architecture:

The natural balance of a floral bloom lends itself perfectly to structural composition, as seen in some of the most well recognized works of modern architecture around the world.


Lotus flowers inspired the blossoming shape of Moshe Safdie’s Art Science Museum in Singapore, a sculpture at Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI museum in Rome, and of course, the Lotus Temple in India. Shanghai’s Qizhong Tennis Center finds inspiration in the petals of the magnolia, while SOM’s Burj Khalifa features a Y-shaped design in homage to a spider lily.

New technologies in building materials and advances in biometric architecture have allowed architects to seek sustainable design solutions governed by nature as well.

Local culture can also play a big part in architectural design. Officially launched in November, the Sidra Medicine hospital in Doha, Qatar, takes inspiration from traditional boats called dhows, and the building features white ceramic-clad sails that compose parts of atriums within the building. The hospital is also inspired by the fluid forms of sand patterns that the architect cited as inspirational.

Frank Lloyd Wright the pottery house

The Pottery House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Music has inspired some incredible buildings as well. From buildings with curved walls meant to mimic a grand piano (while assisting with acoustics), to the Dresden Court of Water that features a system of tubes and funnels that create music when it rains, examples range from aesthetic to buildings that become functional instruments.

Take it from the pros themselves. This excellent video from the AIA Conference in in architecture interviews several architects who talk about what inspires them and why they pursued their career in the business. A theme throughout respondent’s answers touches on the big picture of impacting lives by creating a better community – and the inspirational sources for this couldn’t be more limitless.

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