Bio-Integrated Architecture shows promise in how buildings and urban spaces can live symbiotically with nature, while also looking at how parts of nature can be used to create more sustainable alternatives. These types of structures and systems not only improve environmental wellbeing, but also can vastly improve mental wellbeing. This can happen at various scales, whether it be a room in a house or a whole building. They can also be put into new situations, such as on the street as a way to interact with the built up environment. Algae is often used for these innovations due to its ability to grow in most situations, while also being an incredible air purifier, which is something needed in heavily polluted cities.
Architectural designer/artist Seyi Adelekun and Wayward have created an installation as part of three new green interventions on Exhibition Road, commissioned by the V&A in collaboration with Discover South Kensington and London Festival of Architecture. These urban green space designs aim to connect people with nature and its threats. Algae Meadow explores how we can care for and enhance biodiversity in an urban setting through careful use of local resources, material and plant ecologies. The piece highlights the important ecosystem between land, water and people via a productive algae factory of plant workers, exploring the role of algae and cyanobacteria as a nutrient-dense biofertilizer for plants and people. The structure features hydroponic woven algae filled arches, and is constructed from local, responsibly sourced and recycled material and is a community build project giving opportunities to London based students and volunteers from the Black Females in Architecture network. The piece is also painted using an algae which responds to the sun and changes in colour over time. While the algae itself is grown in London, and some of it comes from the nearby Serpentine lake.
Seyi Adelekun says, “To design a project that celebrates the bountiful ecology of local organisms is a unique opportunity to nurture a better relationship with our environment. Working in collaboration with scientists, we have developed a biophilic landscape of production, cultivation and biomaterial for people to immerse themselves in.”
Bit.Bio.Bot exhibition designed by London-based EcoLogicStudio for the Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibition combines architecture and microbiology to show how air could be purified in cities, and how people can gain a sustainable food source. It also invites visitors to taste freshly harvested algae and consider growing it in their own homes. The three architectural systems act as domestic-scale bioreactors, with one forming a cladding that turns walls into air purifiers by housing algae in a biogel contained in digitally welded channels. While the other system is a vertical garden which allows for easy algae farming. The final part of the installation is the Convivium, which is a table where people can experiment with freshly harvested algae as a source of food. The table consists of 36 unique pieces of 3D-printed crystal glassware with shapes that are based on the morphogenesis of microalgae cells. Algae are powerful photosynthesisers and can consume more carbon dioxide than trees, which is why they could be extremely beneficial editions to buildings. Algae are also among the most nutritious organisms on earth. Each of the BioBombola can produce 100 grams of edible algae a week, which is enough protein for a family of four. While each unit, containing 10 litres of microalgae cultures, absorbs as much carbon dioxide as three large mature trees. After the exhibition finishes the installations will be taken to future homes in the community.
The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Bio-Integrated Design Lab has created a system of tiles that utilise algae to filter toxic chemical dyes and heavy metals out of water. Due to the modularity of the tiles Indus can be built on site in areas around the world that have contaminated water sources. The low-cost and easily adaptable design utilises local clay to create a form with channels. These channels mimic the structure of leaves which allows the water to be fully distributed. Within these veins is micro-algae which is suspended in a seaweed-derived hydrogel. As water runs over this algae it is subject to a process called bioremediation, in which microorganisms consume and break down pollutants in the environment. Algae produce a set of compounds called phytochelatins, which enable them to capture metals that allow them to grow. The compounds remove the pollutants from the water and deposit them within the cell of the algae, where they are stored.
The Algae Dome
SPACE10 is the IKEA research and design lab exploring the future of living. In 2017 they presented the Algae Dome at the Chart Art Fair in Copenhagen. The structure was made from four-metre-high panels wrapped in 320 metres of coiled transparent tubing which contained moving green microalgae. This tubing acted as a photo-bioreactor to produce high quantities of microalgae via photosynthesis, but also allowed visitors to see what was happening. The aim of the installation was to demonstrate how architecture can be used to grow microalgae, while also having the buildings residents benefit from its nutrition. Space 10 wanted to also show the edibility of the organism by creating spirulina crisps. According to the teams research the dome produced 450 litres of green microalgae in the three days of the Chart Art Fair.
The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Bio-Integrated Design Lab
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