Living Architecture: Investigating the Interface Between Biology and Architecture – A New Vision for Homes and Cities

Sourced from The Irish Times

Some scientists spend years manipulating and analysing microscopic biological, chemical or physical interactions in the hope of seeing something new that can increase our knowledge of metabolic processes – particularly when they go wrong. Others dream up new experiments which investigate how metabolic processes could be used for new purposes that many of us haven’t even imagined.

Dr Rachel Armstrong, professor of experimental architecture at the University of Newcastle in England, is in the latter category. Her experiments aim to discover how biological interactions could be used for functions we currently assign to other materials. In her research, she investigates a new approach to building materials which uses biological processes to create light, heat and waste disposal in our homes. She calls these metabolic interactions “living architecture” and develops prototypes to examine how they could be incorporated into homes and cities in the future.

A medical doctor who then did a PhD in architecture at the University of London, Dr Armstrong merges her knowledge of medicine, synthetic biology and sustainable design. She seeks to invent new technologies and paradigms for future building materials.

“Why do we as living things inhabit dead things?” Dr Armstrong asks her audience at the Cool Planet Experience in Co Wicklow, where she came to launch Vodafone Ireland’s sustainable business report recently. “Why can’t we use our buildings to process waste, clean water and produce electricity? Why can’t we have homes that gurgle like a stomach and smell like a garden? Why can’t we use bacteria to help us reduce our dependency on fossil fuels?” she continues.

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