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a processual approach to forming with unruly matter

This thesis explores the realms of ‘unruly matter,’ ‘biohybrid fabrication,’ and the concept of ‘Bacterial Sculpting.’ This research, rooted in a series of laboratory experiments, challenges conventional perspectives by investigating microbially-induced calcium carbonate precipitation (MICCP). It presents a radical shift from anthropocentric views, proposing a world where building materials are not merely inert objects moulded by human design but active, living co-creators in the formation of structures. MICCP is presented as a biohybrid phenomenon, alive in some phases and inert in others. The research reveals how materials and experimental processes interplay to ‘sculpt’ outcomes, with human intervention playing a role in refining these inherently unpredictable creations.

Bacterial Sculpting is a narrative that weaves together design explorations and laboratory experiments, showcasing the evolution of Research Through Design in the biodesign realm.

PhD research in creative practice at Newcastle University: School of Architecture, Planning & Landscaping 

Thesis Supervisors : 

Prof. Martyn Dade-Robertson & Dr. Helen Mitrani

Viva Panel:

Prof. Elvin Karana

Prof. Adam Sharr

Submitted March 2023

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Please cite as:

Arnardottir, T.H. (2023) Bacterial Sculpting: a processual approach to forming with unruly matter [PhD thesis] Newcastle University


(2022) Bacterial Sculpting exhibited at BioFabricate at Newlab, New York, USA. (6-7th of June).


(2022) Bacterial Sculpting exhibited at Built With Biology (formerly SynBioBeta) in Oakland, California, USA. (12-14th of April)

(2022) Developing bio titles from sand and bacteria. Interview in Frettabladid

(2022) Bacterial Builders: Microorganisms as designers and Fabricators of our Built Environment in Rumoer 79. Bio-Based Issue. pp.66-72.

(2021) Turbulent Casting Bacterial Expression in Mineralized Structures. Proceedings from ACADIA 2020: Distributed Proximities conference. 

(2021) Bacterial Sculpting as part of Can We Grow a Building Exhibit. Exhibited at the 17th Venice Biennale in the CityX Venice Italian Virtual Pavilion 9 & 10 exhibitions. (May 22nd - 21st of November). 

(2020) Turbulent Casting Bacterial Expression in Mineralized Structures. Presented at ACADIA 2020: Distributed Proximities conference. 

(2020) Bacterial Choreography: Designing Interactions through Biological Induced Mineralisation. Remote conference presentation at the 1st International Conference on Microbial Biotechnology in Construction Materials and Geotechnical Engineering. Nanjing, China.

(2019) Approach to Biologically Made Materials and Advanced Fabrication Practices. Conference proceedings in the International Conference on Emerging Technologies in Architectural Design (ICETAD2019). 

(2019) Exhibited at Global Community Biosummit. MIT Media Lab, Boston, USA. (October 11-13).

(2019) Bacterial Sculpting as part of Yggdrasil. Exhibited at the Biodesign: Here Now. London Design Festival 2019. OpenCell, London. (September 19-22).

(2019). Bacterial Choreography: Designing interactions through biological induced mineralization. Poster presentation at BIOMIN XV 15th International Symposium on Biomineralization. Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, Germany.  - Awarded Best Poster.


(2019). Bacterial Sculpting: Process-oriented approach to biologically induced materials and advanced fabrication practices. Poster presentation at the Designer Biology Symposium. School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University. 

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