Thursday Salute to Originals: The Glass Frog, Nature’s Necessary Transparency

Glass Frog Big Eyes Rainforest

The natural world is full of wonderment and inspiration. These glass frogs spend their time high in the rain forest canopies of Central and South America, but if you’re lucky enough to see one up close, you’ll find that there is more than initially meets the eye. Flip one of these little guys over and you’ll discover that their stomachs are completely transparent, allowing a view of their innards that seems straight out of a sixth grade science book.

Transparent See Through Glass Frog Stomach

Above: The transparent underbelly of the glass frog.

Above: Some species of glass frogs are completely transparent on both top and bottom.

Not only does this intrigue the science nerd within us, but it starts the wheels turning to look for parallels in design:

    • Because of its transparency, the glass frog blends into its leafy environment and frames specific inward views. Architectural parallel: Selgas Cano’s Glass Office


    • Mixtures of opacity and translucency on different planes create visual intrigue. Architectural parallel: BIG’s green-roofed design for a school in Asminderod, Denmark 

  • At sometimes just the size of a fingernail, the frogs are compact and not any larger than they need to be. Architectural parallel: House in Horinouchi by Mizuishi Architect Atelier

  • The exposure of the frog’s internal organs is visually intriguing, allowing unexpected glimpses of functional systems that are typically obscured by skin. Architectural parallel: Pompidou Center by Richard Rogers and Renzo PianoPompidou Center Exterior Exposed Systems

The glass frog is structured the way it is for survival, making the aesthetic implications of its design even more intriguing.  What else can this tiny unique creature teach us about design?

Image credits: Factzoo, Mudfooted, Inhabitat, Great Buildings