Living Inhabitation Systems for Buildings on and off the Planet

paper submitted to ECAL workshop by Molly Hogle, Barbara Imhof, Waltraut Hoheneder, ECAL European Conference on Artificial Life, Monday 4 Sept 2017, Lyon, France.


For centuries, humankind aimed in creating habitats that possessed a kind of dominion over local climatic conditions. Over time, large-scale infrastructures were conceived and constructed to deliver a constant supply of resources; electricity, gas and water to buildings, and take away copious amounts of human- and building-generated waste. The effects these human behaviours have on the global-scale, have led scientists to name the current geological period, as the ‘Anthropocene’ era.

As many professions look to deal with the challenges presented by rapidly changing ecosystems across the globe, and the dwindling amount of resources, a growing number of architects actively seek new ways of building, that will support a sustainable future in an Ecocene era.

Many architectural designers are breaking the mold and teaming with experts from diverse expertise. Architecture increasingly looks to counteract these destructive human forces, by bringing, back into the living domain of humans, biology and biological systems. By re-introducing ‘life’ into the built environment, it can be used to replace existing (hard) infrastructures, performing, in a malleable way, through naturally occurring metabolic activities, essential building services, including waste removal, the provision of electricity, biofuel, oxygen and clean water.

This paper discusses four case studies that address the problem of limited resources, encountered both on earth and the extended operational architectural field of outer space. A framework for discussion is being established looking at materials and systems. The replacement of industrially processed materials, by living organisms to perform similar functions is explained, as are the systems that govern these living material processes.

Projects, Living Architecture (LIAR), a bioreactor building brick (1); Water Walls, modular structures for life-support (2), MEDUSA, integrated life-support and habitat for lunar applications (3), and GrAB, biolab experiments for growing a building (4), serve as case studies for the review of materials and systems in contemporary architecture.

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