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collaboration with nature

We are an architecture collective of PhD researchers from Newcastle University specialising in living technologies for the future. Our mission is to challenge conventional methods of construction by proposing an ecocentric alternative. We believe that future buildings should be living, breathing and inclusive of nature.

Deepening knowledge of biological systems has allowed us to integrate biology within a wide range of industries, including medicine and industrial chemical synthesis, as well as developments within the field of biotechnology. In this context, the paper introduces the field of living materials in architecture and explores a set of new design paradigms that enable such collaborations and exchanges to occur, highlighting the need for the development of advanced making practices that are capable of accommodating other living forms. The material practices introduced here utilize mycelium, bacterial cellulose, biomineralising bacteria and photosynthetic algae in order to demonstrate experimental alternatives for the construction industry. These new interactions with nature recognise that we need to work with the requirements of organisms in order to promote growth, guide development and benefit from living metabolic functions. The use of living materials presents a set of sustainable alternatives for different parts of the lifecycle of buildings and a need for an attitude shift that would allow a more inclusive building realm.

The exhibit features a collection of living experimental setups that utilise laboratory protocols to sustain living organisms and demonstrate the process of creation with biological materials. Each display is at a different stage of inception, demonstrating different methods of cultivation as well as finished products. The different pieces create microcosms where species thrive and meet, crossing the boundaries of isolated research to create hybrid ecologies that reflect the natural networks present in nature. They utilise scaffolds and moulds of various types to assist their growth and potential wider application into the building realm. The making process is central to the work, with each piece demonstrating a fabrication practice that has transitioned from a laboratory environment into the social realm. 

Exhibited at Biodesign Here Now at Open Cell London during London Design Festival 2019
Project by: Thora H Arnardottir, Assia Stefanova, Dilan Ozkan & Sunbin Lee 
with the help of fabrication officer Ed Robinson.

Present in almost every mythology is an image of the mighty tree, signifying the interconnectedness of nature with its branches and roots, representing the cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth. In the imaginary of Norse cosmology, mistreating and exploiting this embodiment of nature endangers the realm of men reflecting our current ecological dilemma.

Inspired by this imaginary, our living installation reflects on the image of the cosmological tree Yggdrasil and dives into a collaboration with nature, highlighting the need for a non-anthropocentric understanding of our environment and a respect for life on its various scales.


(2021) Mentioned in: Stefanova, A. Practices in Bio-design: Design Research Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration, in Amaresh Chakrabarti, Ravi Poovaiah, Prasad Bokil, & Vivek Kant (eds.) Design for Tomorrow—Volume 3 Proceedings of ICoRD 2021. Springer.

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

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