The studio is called GROWN: Bio-fabrication across Ecosystems and Nations, because it is based on making architecture out of grown organisms rather than manufactured materials. The methodology of the studio is: choose a material, prototype at a small scale, and then speculate about how it could be expanded to the scale and complexity of a building. While the semester explores the potential benefits of this type of practice, it also looks at its downsides and possible parallel impacts it could have on the ecosystem at large. As a studio we are aware of the environmental cost it would require to employ these materials if they have to be shipped abroad, for example, or if they overlap or replace local practices that benefit a community.
Our specific project is located in various natural reserves across the country of Chile, which one of those locations was use to create a preliminary design and the overall proposal investigation. The goal of the project is to use the building as a sensor for environmental change across the Chilean land and the South American continent, since it is meant to biodegrade. If we fail to solve our environmental crisis, the building will continue to serve its purpose as a destination for people to learn about our planet. If we succeed in coming through our environmental battle, there won’t be any purpose for the building to exist. At which point, all the niches, surfaces and pockets will begin to host a wild variety of plants and organisms. If rainfall continues to nourish and nurture the Valdivian land, this structure will little by little be filled with, and eroded by, the very life it is striving to protect.
Our project is a network of 5 Research Centers located in nature reserves throughout the country of Chile. This network is in charge of monitoring the consequences of any change in global temperatures, and how it will affect endemic species of the five most distinct climates in Chile. Through studying the yearly meteorological behavior of the South American continent, we found a quite distinct and stable pattern of precipitations that is the result of the interaction between two giant atmospheric pressures. These meteorological conditions are responsible for the location of the country’s climates, as well as the dissemination of species. A small raise of the ocean’s temperature could impact this delicate balance, by shifting the position of these pressures, which will have devastating consequences over the rich biodiversity of the country.
In terms of materiality, we’ve limited our scope to the ones that can decompose naturally. We explored these relationships and connections in a series of five sets of Roof, Walls, Floors and Joint systems composed with the materials available in the region, and adapted for their general climate. This was an exercise of transforming the program and scale of typical vernacular buildings. We paired the five most important climates of Chile, with the best fitted vernacular strategies around the world. Tempered climates like the ones in Valdivia were correlated with Batak houses in Indonesia given how they respond to high levels of precipitations and humidity, and for the Mediterranean ecoregion, we looked for samples of vernacular buildings from Southern Portugal, and Northern Egypt. The same was done with the Desert, Tundra, and Cool Oceanic climates.
Our building is in a small and secluded yet accessible niche within a mountain. Before we proposed our intervention we documented all significant resources available (like the materials we could take advantage of), and all the external parameters that will affect it (like existing trees, soils and water displacement.) We then imagined a building designed to promote the incorporation of the site’s biodiversity into it, through the flow of water and sediments on the façade.
Authors : Carolina Almeida and Ricardo Lledo Souto.
Instructor / Collaborator: David Benjamin from The Living NY and Columbia University GSAPP