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UD BOOK 2014: BioCities / bio-computation / books / energy / landscape / urban designAugust 30, 2014

The annual Bartlett B-pro pubblication features the work of the BIO Urban Design LAB directed by Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto. One of the projects, the Bio-computed city in Arizona, as been selected as main cover of the book.


BIO Urban Design LAB.

Cities and their morphologies are determined by the flows of matter, information and energy that fuel their metabolisms.

In the contemporary global world such flows span continents and connect across the entire biosphere. As such cities transcend geo-political boundaries to engage in what Jeremy Rifkin calls biosphere politic, globally emergent networks fuelled by information technology and an increased possibility to share local knowledge, resources and energy across scales.


The BIO-Urban Design LAB is devoted to the design and optimisation of these emergent networks. To this end our research deploys bio-mimetic and bio-technological models of collective intelligence and develops resilient and adaptive urban protocols and morphologies.


These protocols of self-organisation generate emergent global solutions from a set of local ruled of interaction; we therefore operate across scales and disciplines in the understanding that a large quantity of small local changes can produce drastic global effects.



Simulated morphologies

This year we developed three codes, mimicking the collective behaviour of Leaf Cutter Ants, Coral polyps and Slime Moulds to simulate emergent urban networks and run large scale morphogenetic studies starting from local rules of interaction; such rules codify the local interaction among the individual agents in the collective and their individual sensitivity to specific environmental fields.

The emergent morphologies are then tested and evaluated to establish a feedback mechanism of evolution and adaptation.

The evaluation is carried on both digitally and by means of analogue experiments made possible by the use of rapid prototyping and robotic manipulation.



Analogue wet models

Analogue modelling is used extensively in the LAB; we develop so called wet models or living test beds, where digital morphologies are inoculated with living organisms; these biotechnological hybrids allows us to test the local metabolic manipulation of flows of renewable energy, information and matter and the emergence of urban networks of collective exchange.

This year we developed a microalgae bio-cells skin, producing energy from photosynthesis on a digitally mediated substratum; we tested a city from waste model with biodegradable 3D printed substrata digested by mycelia; we created a bottom up renewable energy apparatus with the slime mould.

In all these experiments we make specific use of physical computing technologies to create a live communication stream between wet models, the biologic organism and the digital urban simulation codes.



Urban protocols

Such communication produces a feedback that we capture as a new urban protocol; we communicate these protocols with a set of visual outputs such as video, time lapse photography and parametric drawing.

The research work is then published in the CODE book, where a design report describes the key findings; the design report comprises a flow chart diagram of the urban algorithm, a pseudo-code description of each protocol and a details set of specifications related to all the relevant test beds and simulation experiments.

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