Nov 5, 2015 | By Alec

All photos: Irina Shaklova.

Architecture is not exactly known for being a very innovative field; despite a few variations, principles such as solidity and longevity are at the core of all architectural creations. However, various invigorating innovations have been creeping in, and it seems like 3D printing could play a key role in that process. We’ve already seen how Daghan Cam is hard at work reimaging what architecture can be through 3D printing, and now student Irina Shaklova takes us on a more natural approach with her thesis project. Called Living Screen, she is calling for a more natural approach to creation through a tall 3D printed structure filled with living and growing algae.

Irina Shaklova is a student at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaaC) and is building on a debate that has slowly been gaining traction in her field since the 1960s: to make architecture responsive, closely connected to the nature its feeding on. ‘Notwithstanding this fact, to this day, architecture is somewhat conservative: following the same principles with the belief in rigidity, solidity, and longevity,’ she said in her report. However, taking a cue from nature can lead designers towards the biological creation processes, opening up a wide range of design methodologies and innovative architecture, she argues.

While Shaklova is absolutely right, her project can be placed in a series of ambitious building projects that rely on living cells – even concrete filled with bacteria and more. Her particular project explores how algae can be used as a building brick, raising the question of how designers can work with a material that grows and eventually even dies. Algae are a remarkable material, as they need just a certain level of humidity to live, and can go into hibernation when the environmental conditions are unfavorable – waking up again when the situation changes.

While water-based algae have been used before, Shaklova takes a very interesting avenue with Living Screen. She relies on aerial algae, that can live without a constant flow of water. Initially, she tested two different growth mediums – agar and Methylcellulose with sodium alginate – finding, that Methylcellulose was a perfect combination with 3D printing – it could be mixed with the algae before printing, making fabrication very easy. In contrast, the algae had to be inserted into the finished prints when agar was used.

To house this fascinating building material, she 3D printed a very cool and remarkable screen. Quite delicate yet huge at 4 x 1.5 meter, the screen consists of a single continuous tube filled with algae. The line intersections give the screen some structural strength. To 3D print such a huge screen, she fitted a robotic arm with an extrusion unit.

The result is not just gorgeous and inspiring, but also functional, the student argues. Shaklova believes a 3D printed screen filled with algae can function as a sort of low-tech alternative to a water pump system, albeit one that requires much less electronics and is even manufactured much quicker. It also requires no maintenance upon completion – just the right level of humidity. It suggests that its sometimes better to rely on nature in our daily lives, rather than on only more and more technology. The full thesis can be found here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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