Biodegradable Architecture

Biodegradable Architecture

In architecture we are so caught up in creating something new, we often forget about what happens at the end of a building’s life cycle—the unfortunate, inevitable demolition. We may want our buildings to be timeless and live on forever, but the harsh reality is that they do not, so where is all the waste expected to go?

Biodegradable architecture explores the possibility of building technology that enables convenient solutions. For instance, biodegradable architecture could explore a housing typology that has a life cycle appropriate to its users, as well as to its environment; it allows for as minimal impact as possible in the [re]design of the landscape.

Biodegradable architecture suggests simultaneously both construction and demolition. The concept of biodegradable when applied to architecture becomes a manifestation of the interrelationship between architecture, landscape, and decay.  Something that is biodegradable breaks down or decays naturally without any special scientific treatment, and can therefore be thrown away without causing pollution.

Silk Pavilion: A Case Study in Fiber-based Digital Fabrication at MIT Media Lab

The Silk Pavilion, by Neri Oxman and team, explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication on product and architectural scales. The primary structure was created of 26 polygonal panels made of silk threads laid down by a CNC (Computer-Numerically Controlled) machine. Inspired by the silkworm’s ability to generate a 3D cocoon out of a single multi-property silk thread (1km in length), the overall geometry of the pavilion was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches providing various degrees of density.

A Biodegradable Pavilion For Sukkahville 2014

For the 2014 competition, New Jersey-based graduates Michael Signorile and Edward Perez created “Reflect Reveal Rebirth,” a structure that responds to this challenge to create a transient space for contemplation by utilizing a biodegradable skin.

Signorile and Perez describe the purpose of a Sukkah as “a transient space, where one goes to transcend their spiritual capacity. A Sukkah is time-less structure that comes and goes at the user’s discretion.” With these principles in mind, the duo proposed a Sukkah that connects its users to nature, both through its naturally-inspired, “flowering” form which tapers to give visitors a view of the sky, but more importantly through the structure’s cladding, which is made of a corn-based foam which dissolves when it comes into contact with water.

“This project creates a dialogue between installation architecture and the permanence it can have,” explain Signorile and Perez. “By using a material such as biodegradable corn foam, people can understand the implications of using unsustainable materials and where they go in their second life.”

The Future of Brick: Biodegradable And Bacterial

A new shelter is erected in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 each summer, providing shade and a visual focal point for the space’s outdoor summer events. This year, that structure was grown as much as it was built, from mushroom-based bricks. The Hy-Fi tower was designed by David Benjamin of The Living, and is the largest structure to be built from mushroom materials to date.

Following recent projects that have explored the wonders of this curious material, mycelium has risen in popularity, although its use is so far still limited to temporary pavilions or installations. Mycelium is the vegetative part of the fungus, made up of hundreds of interwoven fibers produced by the spores which makes it an incredibly strong material when dried. If combined with farm waste in molds, the fungus culture forms organic bricks that can be used in construction that afterward decompose and return to the carbon cycle.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

Bioplastics show some of the greatest potential for use, breaking down much faster than synthetic plastic and producing compostable biomass as waste. In 2015, Spanish firm Selgascano designed the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion and annual summer installation in Hyde Park, incorporating a double-layered plastic skin made from ETFE—a kind of fluorine-based plastic in a variety of colours—wrapped around a series of metal arches. This material has a high resistance to corrosion and remains very strong in different temperature ranges, making it ideal for outdoor use. Following its installation, it has since been disassembled and reassembled multiple times across the globe.

Bone-Like Plastic Structures Form Biodegradeable Temporary Pavilions With “Osteobotics”

Architecture can be built with compressive elements and with tensile elements, but few materials have the ability to be stretched and also retain compressive strength. In a new project from Architectural Association DRL students Soulaf Aburas, Maria Velasquez, Giannis Nikas, and Mattia Santi, one of those materials, Polycaprolactone, a biodegradable polyester, is used to create framework from temporary pavilions and installations. Constructed using programmable robotic arms, the resulting product is a joint-less, self-supporting mono-material that shares a visual similarity to the structure of bones – giving the project its name, Osteobotics.

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