Free Range Bio-Fabrication

The modern expectation for architectural permanence requires vast amounts of money, resources, and time devoted to maintenance and upkeep. Constructed from largely inert materials and conceived to cater to human convenience and comfort, contemporary buildings are unable to participate in the complex and dynamic ecological systems within which they are sited.

By combining the customization and precision of robotic fabrication with environmentally responsive materials, this researchwill establish initial design parameters and experimental protocols for constructing non-anthropocentric objects that have an awareness of an architectural site as a complex ecosystem rather than a reductive series of spatial parameters. The goal is to create structures that can communicate with and modify the behavior of organisms across ecological niches to produce mutually beneficial outcomes by facilitating symbiotic relationships between humans and other organisms.

The design process will draw data from existing literature in architectural theory, biology and material science that investigate species specific pest and pollinator syndromes related to color, patterning, shape, and scent production in different species of flowers to generate structures that can sensitively affect various ecologies.

Using a custom CNC gantry connected to a pneumatic hydrogel extruder, I will 3D print and fold biopolymer skins to create appealing habitats for bees, silkworms, butterflies and moths to build hives and cocoons. Tunable composites of functionally graded materials made from abundantly available biopolymers such as cellulose, chitosan, and pectin will be combined with pigments found in beet, turmeric, cinnamon, and spirulina to create foldable structural skins with various structural characteristics and colors. The geometry, visual patterning, and olfactory properties of each skin are intended to communicate different information to various organisms.

These habitats will encourage symbiosis between pairs of different insects and flowering plants. I will structure a series of experiments to evaluate the success of each design by exposing each habitat to its target organisms and tracking their behavior over time. After testing each organism’s response to different colors, scents and shapes – I hope to generate a vocabulary of design parameters and their associated outcomes for different organisms.

By attracting pollinators, repelling predators, and providing nutrients for plant growth, these habitats can be used to promote the environmental health and ecological integration of architectural structures. The final goal of this research is to define a design process and fabrication system that can be customized to fit a variety of sites and deployed on an agricultural scale to farm the raw materials used in the construction of buildings while remaining sensitive to local flora and fauna.