Architecture, space and information in constructions built by humans and social insects: A conceptual review

Tim Ireland, Simon Garnier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The similarities between the structures built by social insects and by humans have led to a convergence of interests between biologists and architects. This new, de facto interdisciplinary community of scholars needs a common terminology and theoretical framework in which to ground its work. In this conceptually oriented review paper, we review the terms ‘information’, ‘space’ and ‘architecture’ to provide definitions that span biology and architecture. A framework is proposed on which interdisciplinary exchange may be better served, with the view that this will aid better cross-fertilization between disciplines, working in the areas of collective behaviour and analysis of the structures and edifices constructed by non-humans; and to facilitate how this area of study may better contribute to the field of architecture. We then use these definitions to discuss the informational content of constructions built by organisms and the influence these have on behaviour, and vice versa. We review how spatial constraints inform and influence interaction between an organism and its environment, and examine the reciprocity of space and information on construction and the behaviour of humans and social insects. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Interdisciplinary approaches for uncovering the impacts of architecture on collective behaviour’.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20170244
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1753
StatePublished - Aug 19 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Architecture
  • Information
  • Perception
  • Social systems
  • Space


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