Organic architecture was espoused by Frank Lloyd Wright as long ago as 1908, and there were stray examples of natural influences on buildings before that. Joseph Paxton's design for the Crystal Palace, for example, which was built in London in 1851, was inspired by the ribs of the giant Victoria regia lily, and the splayed base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris copies the buttress principle of large tree trunks. But the great flowering of organically inspired architecture is happening now.

Hugh Aldersey-Williams has brought together models, sketches and photographs of buildings — displayed alongside stuffed examples of the animals that inspired them, borrowed from the neighbouring Natural History Museum — in a new exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

Sometimes the inspiration is iconic. The image used in publicity for the exhibition is Santiago Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum (shown above), which mimics a giant bird (or, to some eyes, the tail of a humpback whale). Sometimes the inspiration is structural. David Marks and Julia Barfield's competition-winning design for a cafe in the redeveloped Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham, UK, is based on a nautilus shell and the Fibonacci series, the mathematical justification for the ancient golden section, or ideal sensual proportion.

Architectural firms whose work is included in the exhibition include Foster and Partners, Gehry Partners, Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Ushida Findlay and Wilkinson Eyre. Some of the entrancing hybrid structures showcased in the exhibition are as yet unbuilt — the exhibition should encourage this situation to change.

The Zoomorphic exhibition runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, until 4 January 2004.