la Biennale di Venezia, 2021
A collective experiment in biotechnological architecture
Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, founders of ecoLogicStudio
www.ecologicstudio.com and their research partners The Synthetic Landscape Lab at Innsbruck University and the Urban Morphogenesis Lab at the Bartlett UCL have been invited to participate in “How will we live together?” the 17th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia curated by Hashim Sarkis which is held in Venice from May 22nd to November 11th, 2021.
Within the “As New Households” section of the Corderie dell’Arsenale, the studio is presenting the installation BIT.BIO.BOT., a 1:1 scale experiment in the cultivation of the urban microbiome. It is designed to test a model of permanent co-existence between human and non-human organisms in the post-pandemic Urbansphere. The installation’s biotechnological architecture acts as a medium to tackle several urban vulnerabilities. Its core biological mechanism is photosynthesis, powered by the sun and the metabolism of living cultures of Spirulina platensis. One of Earth’s oldest organisms, Spirulina is an edible cyanobacterium capable of re-metabolizing pollutants in the air to transform them into one of the world’s most nutritious foods.
In our current stage of technological evolution, notably in the forms of synthetic biology and artificial intelligence, traditional dichotomies such as natural artificial, material digital, human non-human become obsolete. Cities to embody this condition as they evolve into an interconnected global Urbansphere.
The bigger vision of the presented project is a real urban laboratory, and it combines advanced architecture with microbiology to build an artificial habitat, a prototype dwelling where urban algae can be grown collectively. Every phase of the project’s conception, fabrication, cultivation contributes to the experiment in co-existence. Co-existence, is intended, among us, humans, and with an extended milieu of non-human systems and living organisms, including biological ones such as Spirulina, and artificial ones such as CycleGAN.
The below prototypical plan here is achieved by developing a new bio-computational design workflow that enables pairing what is algorithmically drawn with what is biologically grown. The GAN (Generative Adversarial Networks) algorithms combine the plan drawings of the BIT.BIO.BOT architecture trained to “behave” like algae cells. The trained GAN is deployed as an urban design technique, to test the potential of redistributing the BIT.BIO.BOT’s biotechnological architecture based on the algae cell behavior.
The advanced architectural system on show at the Corderie is the result of 10 years of bio-digital design research, developed by ecoLogicStudio and combining computational design strategies (BIT) with proprietary fabrication techniques (BOT) to implement a collective microbiological cultivation protocol (BIO).
BIT.BIO.BOT is composed of three fluidly interconnected systems that embody the fundamental architectural environments of a future dwelling: the Living Cladding, the Vertical Garden and the Convivium.
The living Cladding
The Living Cladding re-defines the limits between human and non-human realms and between architectural indoor and outdoor. It is composed of ten PhotoSynthEtica curtains. The unique version unveiled at the Corderie features a morphological pattern inspired by the surrounding brick walls, highlighting the microbiological nature of the Venetian architectural fabric.
Furthermore, its articulation increases the interaction between micro-algae growth in the bio-gel medium, and the environment, as well as their screening and shading potential. Each curtain is three meters high and one meter wide, and features 35 meters of digital welding, which forms a cavity capable of containing 7 liters of micro-algae cultures.
The vertical Garden
The Vertical Garden creates a thick buffer zone located between the Living Cladding and the Convivium, dedicated to an intensive model of vertical algae farming.
On a three-meter tall and completely reversible stainless steel structure, It hosts 15 Bio-Bombolas – the proprietary domestic algae garden system developed by ecoLogicStudio in response to the challenges of the first Covid-19 lockdown, in Spring 2020. Each unit of Vertical Garden, made of lab grade borosilicate glass and 3D printed bioplastic components, hosts 10 liters of micro-algae cultures in a highly efficient growing medium.
Algae can be independently harvested from each unit several times per week to collect up to one hundred grams of biomass, which is the daily recommended protein intake of a family of four. While active in production, the Vertical Garden is able to absorb CO2 at a rate equal to three large mature trees, providing a clear path to carbon neutrality in architecture.
BioBombola can be easily assembled and dismantled, with zero waste, during the production, assembly and dismantling phases. The photobioreactor adapts to any environment and any ceiling height. To find out more about the BioBombola and the harverst, follow the link below.
The Convivium is a space for sharing and for collective experimentation on the future of food. It takes the form of a 2 x 2 meter table, which hosts 36 unique pieces of crystal glassware designed to encourage experimentation in the consumption of the freshly harvested Chlorella and Spirulina cells, both of which are among the most nutritious organisms on Earth.
The crystal glassware is designed by ecoLogicStudio and 3D printed by Swarovski with its groundbreaking glass printing technology. Each piece is made of delicately fused glass layers – arranged in a matrix that algorithmically follows the morphogenesis of micro-algae cells, thus generating a variety of visual patterns. These will offer a multiplicity of opportunities to observe, transform and taste microalgae as part of a new culinary landscape.
Each phase of the project including its conception, its fabrication, cultivation and post-Biennale re-functionalization, will contribute to this overall experiment in co-existence – among us humans, and within an extended milieu of non-human systems.”
— says Dr. Marco Poletto