Proto-materials: Material practices in architecture at molecular and cellular scales

Martyn Dade-Robertson, Meng Zhang, Carolina Ramirez-Figueroa, Luis Hernan, John Beattie, Alexander Lyon, Markus Ryden, Malcolm Welford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Vitruvius suggested in his texts 'On Architecture' that architecture is an imitation of nature, but what happens when architecture becomes nature and we begin, through the design of biological systems, to become architects of nature? Just as the latter part of the twentieth century was transformed through information technologies, it is widely predicted that the twenty-first century world will be radically changed by the emerence of biotechnology. Biological systems exhibit a wide variety of forms and functions, make highly efficient use of energy and other resources and are capable of processes such as programmed self assembly and and adaptability which are very difficult or, in some cases, impossible to achieve using more traditional human engineered systems. To this end, Synthetic Biology has been heralded as an important technological and design paradigm, enabling the development of complex material systems. Synthetic Biology has been the subject of debate in a number of disciplines, including architecture. The possibility of designing material forms through the manipulation of molecular and microscopic scale structures offers a radically different way of thinking about the design process and its possible outcomes. These speculations also raise important epistemological, ethical and practical questions about the role of design in this new field.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPrototyping architecture
EditorsMichael Stacey
Place of PublicationToronto
PublisherRiverside Architectural Press
ISBN (Print)9781926724256
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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