PhD student

Guro Tyse

3d-Printing luminous hydrogels as bacterial living systems in an architectural context

Guro Tyse, ANR funded Phd prepared at Ensadlab, Ecole des Arts Déco, PSL University in the framework of the ImpressioVivo project (on-going). Supervision: Aurélie Mosse, Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen.

As a practice-led research project in the field of biodesign, this project uses bacteria as living technologies by placing them in the centre of the design process. Building on the interdisciplinary project Imprimer la Lumière which pushes the scale of bio-printing to make bacterial luminescent micro-architectures, this thesis explores how digital technologies can facilitate the design, fabrication and maintenance of materials as host environments for bacteria in architecture.

Architects usually idealise long-lasting, predictable and maintenance-free materials, but the current environmental crisis with scarcity of resources force us to change our expectations of how materials perform, change and decay. Where a modern building is considered finalised when the construction work is done, architecture built with biomaterials and living organisms keeps transforming long after the building is completed

This introduces a new form of co-living and need for care taking where understanding the living conditions of the hosted organisms is fundamental. To accommodate for the inherent metabolism and dynamics of living materials, circulation of water, oxygen, salts, food and waste must be considered. For the architect to navigate in this complex intersection of design, biology and engineering, new tools and workflows are needed. The increasing availability of advanced digital technologies in fabrication, generative design, simulation, data collection and representation opens a new landscape for complex materials in architecture.

In this thesis bioluminescent marine bacteria is used as a model organism to develop the framework of tools and thinking needed for design with living bacteria. Here the emitted light is functionalised as a light source while also enabling a visual understanding of how the bacteria live in the material over time. By altering the agar recipe normally used to culture bacteria in microbiology labs, it can be 3d-printed. This allows to elevate the host environment from the flat surface of a petri-dish to porous 3d structures with local micro-environments within in a system of gas circulation, liquid irrigation and maintenance.

Integrating sensing into the physical experiments help analyse the bacteria’s behaviour over time and evaluate the designs. This knowledge is crucial to inform the next experiment while also feeding the development of techniques to draw living bacterial systems as architectural materials. The dynamic nature of the living material requires a drawing model which extends into time as a fourth dimension with the help of parametric design and digital simulations.

The results will be embodied in a demonstrator, where the concept of bioreactor will be reinterpreted for an architectural context, creating a sufficiently sterile setup to contain the bacteria, while ensuring both their and their human care takers’ health.

This thesis is part of the project ImpressioVivo which examines the 3d printing of biomaterials induced by luminescent and calcifying bacteria for circular design perspective.

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