Right at the seeming moment, when the world has already started stepping into the new form of reality, we can’t help but ponder upon the ‘regular nuances’..! What is it going to be like to live in the ‘new normal’? The pandemic has touched almost everyone and and every sphere of life and left us in a state of serious contemplation where we have no option but to …. REBOOT!
Having said that, it is known that changes don’t happen immediately, it takes its own time and course. And this pandemic has only accelerated the change which was bound to happen in our near future. Now more than ever, has proved that amalgamation of various specialities is necessary to thrive on to our new future.
What is BIO – Design?
The ecstatic fusion of living organisms with art and design, is what we call as ‘Bio-design’. The reason why I call it ‘ecstatic’ is because this kind of amalgamation has opened an overwhelming opportunity for achieving better ecological performances.
It is different from bio-mimicry which only uses living systems as an inspiration of design. Bio-design incorporates living organisms like bacteria, fungus into design and uses them as their base block, be it as a material, energy generators or as a healthcare innovation systems, to name a few.
Why BIO – Design?
Bio-design is the key to developing our new eco-friendly world. With the kind of potential and power that it has, bio-design could be used to address the immediate crisis
and develop sustainable systems. One of the very important upshot of such a cross-disciplinary proliferation is the evolution of critical technologies that softens the line between art and design.
The on-going world crisis has proved that it is high time to tap into the vast and potential pool of knowledge that the sphere has to provide. It is through this that the designers and architects could address the crucial design problems worldwide. The current times have demonstrated the importance of co-habitation : embracing natural systems and collaborating with living organisms. Through such collaborations, architects & designers could use the scientific knowledge of the biologists while biologist could gain from the broad design thinking perspectives of the designers. It could make architecture interactive. They need to adopt these technologies and bring them into practice in order to lead the paradigm shift that we are now living in!
BIO – Design in Architecture
“It will be soft and hairy.”
-Salvador Dali, on the future of architecture, in response to Le Corbusier
Biotechnology is re-fashioning the face of architecture and urban design. One of the ancient examples of spinning life into architecture is found in the northeastern part of India, where bridges are made of living tree roots and has been there for 200 years or more! This is the kind of future constructions we are looking forward to where biology is integrated into the very DNA of architecture.
However, this concept of intersecting life science into architecture isn’t a new one. Its been embedded in the history of human civilization since long. Whether we talk about the ancient Greek and Roman architecture or the entire Art Nouveau movement, we can see the seeds of the collaboration growing from scratch. “This history, however, is largely a conceptual one, drawing on the metaphors, knowledge structures, and imagery of biology but rarely engaging the actual research protocols of biology or understanding buildings as living biological objects,” writes David Benjamin, founding principal of The Living, a New York–based design firm, in the new book Now We See Now: Architecture and Research by The Living ($40, Monacelli Press).
In this article, we will see few of the most innovative designs where architecture has been approached through the eyes of biology.
1. The Living light
With the growing demand for energy, we are developing new ways of harvesting it from different sources. But how incredible would it be, if the little showpiece plant, in your room, could power the energy of it? Ermi Van Oers, has designed a lamp which harnesses the energy of living plants to provide light.
Van Oers while studying product design, encountered the fact that energy could be harnessed from the resources that are being wasted on a day-to-day basis. The Living light is based on the new technology called “microbial fuel cells”. A healthy plant releases a lot of organic compounds everyday. A microbial fuel cell captures these compounds and harnesses energy from them by breaking them down.
2. The Hy Fi project, The Living
This outdoor pavilion was temporarily built at MoMA PS1 and was the winner of the institution’s young architects program. This is built of two types of bricks : organic & reflective. Organic bricks are placed at the bottom of the installation and are made up of a mixture of corn stalks and specially developed mycelial structures from mushrooms. While the reflective bricks are at the top and are produced through the custom-forming of a mirror film devised by 3M. The installation was
there for three months after which the bricks were degraded and composted into soil which was sent to the local gardens. This beautifully portrays the circular lifecycle in architecture.
3. The self healing bio-concrete
Would you believe, if I say that like any living organisms even buildings could heal itself? This magnificent stride in the field of architectural innovation was taken by Henk Jonkers at the Technology University of Delft. He used Sporosarcina pasteurii, a robust bacterium that naturally secretes limestone in specific conditions, in the concrete before it dried. This mixture effectively repairs cracks and therefore, can self heal! This kind of concrete has a very long life span and is also eco-friendly while cutting down the overall construction cost.
4. BioMason’s bricks
Global carbon emissions are a major threat to our climate. BioMason’s co-founder Ginger Krieg Dosier, claims that about 8% of the global carbon emissions come from making bricks. She stumbled upon this fabulously unique way making bricks while searching for green alternatives for building materials. BioMason is a startup founded by Dosier along with her husband, Michael, in 2012. In contrast to the traditional way of making bricks, BioMason injects sand with microorganisms to initiate a process like the one that creates coral. It takes around four days to build a brick and then its ready to go! Since this process doesn’t use any clay or heat, it is able to cut down on the huge amount of emissions that otherwise would be emitted into the environment.
5. Microbial Home – creating a cyclical eco-system
This is 2020 and we are talking about not just being eco-friendly but also maintaining the ecosystem right inside your home! This is a conceptual project designed by Phillips. It represents a sustainable approach to energy, waste, lighting, food preservation, cleaning, grooming, and human waste management. This module works on the simple principle of ‘zero waste’ where each function’s output is another’s input, exactly like our ecosystem! It has a bio-digester kitchen island that could degrade solid bathroom waste and vegetable peelings into methane, while plastic packaging could be degraded by fungus. It also proposes an evaporative cooler, which is a part of a dining table, for storing fresh food. This model advocates for people to embrace nature and proposes strategies for developing a balanced microbial ecosystem in the home. To bring into effect this design proposal required a team of 400 professionals from 35 different countries and an integration of diverse fields like biology, psychology, cultural sociology, anthropology and trend research along with the more ‘traditional’ design-related skills.
Eco-friendly projects like these have already been underway, with the collaborations of experts from different fields. But are still not practiced on a commercial level. The pandemic has brought us to a point where the importance of ‘going green’ all the way, is not just an option but mandatory. The fact that our planet needs recovery and that can only be brought by changing our traditional thought processes and practice. And we as designers and architects should be pioneering the changes in the field. We have to start taking an integrated approach towards our society. The cross over from design to bio-design has become a necessity now.