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4th Tallinn Architecture Biennale

Plastics, since their invention in 1930, have come to take an evermore present role in today's manufacture and daily products, becoming what is 

considered to be an essential raw material. Following the current matter cycles, from extraction to transformation and the inevitable end in waste, there is a growing presence of plastic particles under 5mm in length in the world’s oceans. According to a new Policy Brief by Baltic Eye, 40 tons of microplastics are released annually into the Baltic Sea catchment, requiring 450 and 1000 years for these materials to decompose. This generates a new artificial geological layer of the marine environment, becoming a precondition for this environment’s metabolic development. Which emergent mechanisms and systems can interact with this Anthropocene scenario? What are the new material cycles and processes emerging? Can we create new interaction protocols and life cycles of matter within this scenario? What is the impact of these processes on the existing ecosystems, ecology and economy of the region? These questions present an opportunity to redefine marine metabolism, creating new human and non-human interaction systems with the environment.

LiveCycles is a bio-artificial system which responds to the current challenges, interacting with the marine ecosystem through the definition of possible marine material cycles and proposing a mechanism of plastic extraction, recycling and reuse by the means of nano agent systems. The project questions how small robotic agents can become a new transitional system from built to unbuilt environments and which, in symbiosis with the natural species of the Baltic sea, could act on site, creating interaction between natural and artificial systems. The concept is to engage in a productive matter cycle, fed by the extracted microplastics towards the generation and printing of a bio aggregated material with the use of biological binders. The installation works with Baltic Sea water, firstly extracting the contained microplastics from the marine environment and then, passing through the complex digestion system of nanorobot, bio aggregating its particles into a material which can be reused for the further proliferation of this same marine environment.

This project explores an alternative solution to managing the extensive plastic waste presented in our marine environments. By investigating methods of aggregating plastic pieces instead of breaking them into smaller pieces, this project proposes a material that gives new life to the valuable plastics. The studies conducted explored the potential of using bacteria as a method for aggregating the particles, primarily testing Caulobacter bacteria which forms a bio-glue, and Acetobacter xylinum, which can join plastic particles in a mesh of cellulose.

Identifying a method of microplastic extraction from the seawater, testing the growth of several bacteria for natural binding, as well as envisioning potential methods of bio aggregated plastic printing, the project aims to provide alternative material solutions, recycling methods and matter cycles. The installation plays with the scale and invites visitors to observe, become part of and understand the process of filtration, bio aggregation and printing of recycled microplastics through the demonstration and simulation of material processes, as well as laying its foundations in already existing innovative technology and research. The installation consists of an enlarged microplastic digestion system, allowing the visitors to emerge in the process, fully grasping the comprehensive BioMatter Cycle, from the water filtration to the bio aggregated material system and production.

The LiveCycles apparatus is a new bio-artificial system which aims to change the way we impact the environment and demonstrate how multi-operated processes, from filtering water cycles to recycling material cycles, can also offer live material - biomaterial - outputs that can generate new life cycles, becoming a potential for our environment’s development and growth.


LiveCycles is a project by IAAC Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, AGG Advanced Architecture Group.

Project team:
Maria Kuptsova – Project Coordination, Concept, Design, Development, Fabrication
Raimund Krenmueller – Development, Design and Fabrication, Rodrigo Aguirre – Computational Design, Mathilde Marengo – Concept and Initial Research & Areti Markopoulou – Concept Development


Biology expert: Nuria Conde Pueyo


Physical computing: Mehmet Berk Bostanci & Karthikeyan Dhanabalan


Documentation, Visualisation and Logistics: Thora H Arnardottir, Firas Safieddine, Ricardo Mayor Luque, Jessica Dias & Jesus Ariel Valenzuela Hernandez


Research collaboration: Complex Systems Lab – UPF


Fabrication collaboration: Barcelona Glass Studio: Agustina Ros y Ferrán Collado

See more here.

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