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Synthetic Biology & Architecture[1]


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Historically architecture has likened the city as an organism and looked to nature for design inspiration. Until recently the tools that have enabled architects to engage with what R. Buckminster Fuller called the ‘drivers of biology’, have not been available and architects use biological systems in a symbolic way called biological ‘formalism’ where aesthetics are prioritized over function. Recent developments in Synthetic Biology, which were demonstrated at Artificial Life XI suggested it was possible to design and engineer materials that meet the requirements necessary for a new generation of smart materials.

Published in: Design, Business
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Synthetic Biology & Architecture[1]

  1. 1. Synthetic Biology & Architecture AVATAR group The Bartlett School of Architecture University College London
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Architecture & Biology </li></ul><ul><li>Contemporary Materials </li></ul><ul><li>Architecture 2030 </li></ul><ul><li>Connecting Architecture & Nature </li></ul><ul><li>Complex Materials </li></ul><ul><li>AVATAR Projects & Collaborations </li></ul><ul><li>Fabricating Nature </li></ul>
  3. 3. Architecture & Biology <ul><li>Biological Formalism – flattering nature </li></ul><ul><li>Schism between built and natural environments due to lack of technological ‘bridge’ </li></ul>
  4. 4. Contemporary Materials <ul><li>Derived from original technological function of architecture to generate homeostasis </li></ul><ul><li>Belligerent to nature & inert </li></ul><ul><li>During industrial revolution the relationship changed from belligerence to toxicity with the production of GHGs </li></ul><ul><li>Current architectural practice based on Victorian technologies </li></ul>
  5. 5. Architecture 2030 <ul><li>Brussels targets to reach first carbon neutral cities </li></ul><ul><li>Requires retooling of architects by 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>Broader portfolio of design strategies needed since sustainable practice involves energetics, efficiency and recycling with limited opportunities for designers </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>“ The road to energy independence, economic recovery and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions runs through the Building Sector.” Edward Mazria </li></ul>
  7. 7. Connecting Architecture & Nature <ul><li>Architecture is an environmental technology </li></ul><ul><li>In order to produce genuinely sustainable architecture it needs to be part of the biosphere, not separate from it </li></ul><ul><li>Requires a common ‘language’ based in physics & chemistry </li></ul>
  8. 8. Complex Materials <ul><li>Architecture & Complexity: Systems Architecture workshop held Darwin Day 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinary, international partners from architecture, synthetic biology & computer sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Materials identified with potential for self organization derived from Origins Of Life sciences </li></ul>
  9. 10. AVATAR Projects & Collaborations <ul><li>Low Tech Biotech – ubiquitous, inexpensive, robust materials that do not require genetic engineering </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation by Design – existing biological systems at ‘cellular level’ </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation by Invention – building agents from scratch using complexity chemistry </li></ul>
  10. 11. AVATAR Research <ul><li>Innovation by design: Bryopsis , Physarum & unconventional computing, bioluminescence </li></ul><ul><li>Innovation by invention: Protocells </li></ul>
  11. 12. Bryopsis plumosa
  12. 17. Physarum polycephalum
  13. 21. Unconventional Computing <ul><li>Organic Physarum polycephalum </li></ul><ul><li>Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, resulting in the establishment of a nonlinear chemical oscillator reaction </li></ul>
  14. 24. Bioluminescence
  15. 27. Protocell
  16. 34. AVATAR Architectural Projects <ul><li>Casa Diatom – Shin Tseng </li></ul><ul><li>Reclaiming Venice – Christian Kerrigan </li></ul>
  17. 35. Casa Diatom
  18. 39. Reclaiming Venice
  19. 44. AVATAR Architectural Practice <ul><li>AVATAR, Philip Beesley & Mette Ramsgard Thompsen, UN Climate Summit, December 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Philip Beesley & AVATAR, Venice Bienale 2010 </li></ul>
  20. 48. Artificial Life XII <ul><li>Workshop at Artificial Life XII, September 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>Project presentation by international synthetic biologists and architects engaging with self-organizing material systems & new computational methods </li></ul><ul><li>Curated by interdisciplinary partnership between Neil Spiller (architect) & Martin Hanczyc (synthetic biologist) </li></ul>
  21. 49. Fabricating Nature <ul><li>“ One can imagine an addition to the Revit 2017 menu ... Print to pdf, Print to Plotter, Print to SDL, Print to Genetic Algorithm, Print to Protocells ...” Tom Wujec, Autodesk Fellow, Canada </li></ul><ul><li>Uformia, new systems that can model natural objects </li></ul><ul><li>Evo Grid, evolutionary software at level of basic chemistry </li></ul>
  22. 50. Explicit Near Atomic Control <ul><li>Generation of new materials, processes, interfaces, tools & communications systems that engage directly with artificial and living processes </li></ul><ul><li>Bigger picture of synthetic environments – no longer virtual reality </li></ul><ul><li>4 th epoch of the Digital Age </li></ul>
  23. 51. Summary <ul><li>Synthetic Biology & Architecture as a portfolio of new tools for architects so they can meet the 2030 targets </li></ul><ul><li>Surface of the built environment is a managed and monitored interface with nature </li></ul><ul><li>Low Tech Biotech </li></ul><ul><li>New computer modelling/fabrication technologies leading to alternative biologies </li></ul>