Team:University College London/HumanPractice/LivingArchitecture


Picture Gallery: Building an Architectural Model

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Living Architecture

Initial thoughts

My definition of ‘living architecture’ is that of an idealist and somewhat romantic. We consume a tremendous amount of energy in stopping the collapse of bricks, concrete and steel in order to make a habitable space. We invest in the extraction of raw materials from the Earth for the sole purpose of creating a shelter from the environment. It seems as if the utility of nature is to protect against nature itself. With this in mind, why not have a building that works with its surroundings? Not just purely aesthetically connected to the urban environment, but one that works in tandem with the movement of the sun or responds to seasonal rainfall. I guess what I’m trying to suggest is the idea that architecture and nature could be one and the same, that architecture could be derivative from our current environment, working in harmony with nature as we know it. This is where Plastic Republic comes into play: a terra-formed island from plastic waste through the bio-engineering of bacteria in the ocean. An island that has to withstand the weight of everyday life. I imagine this land to be housing bespoke infrastructures to which the plastic could rebelliously cling, infrastructures that could serve different purposes, be that shelter or the creation and transport of resources. The questions listed below were a train of thoughts, allowing the design process to develop through discussing the problems such considerations raised:

  • How is the island formed?
  • What determines the shape of the island; its shelters, its enclosures? What makes the island habitable?
  • How does the microplastic take its form? What forms are we interested as potential inhabitants?
  • How can microplastic act as a material of construction, of insulation, of protection; how can it revolutionise the current architectural system?
  • What elements of the island could be defined by man and how far can we take this?
  • Could the island be completely energy-efficient? Could the plastics somehow generate energy to fuel the island?

The proposal involves a plastic island adopting various typologies of scaffoldings from which microplastics could attach themselves, eventually forming a unique enclosure. The scaffoldings would work as empty vessels, which the plastics would fill in an undeterminable way to echo familiar infrastructure within existing cities; doorways, stairs, etc. As scientists, we are able to transform bacteria to possess certain abilities - what we cannot control is the specific pattern in which the bacteria behave. What we can provide is a series of structures that could further influence the behaviour of the bacteria. The interest lies in the unexpected ways from which shelter could emerge from a pre-fabricated infrastructure. The clumping of the plastics mimics the unpredictable growth of plants and acts as an ironic statement through the use of pollution in a ‘natural’ method.


The idea of a series of framework constructs leads to three individual aspects of the island. We had to think about how we would, for lack of a better word, ‘drop’ this large infrastructure into the Pacific and through this act, how the island could be initially constructed, how the island could float before shelters could be formed.

The blue outline represents bio-mineralisation, allowing the island to take its form and stability as fast as possible. The plastic build-up happens a little while later. It is only when the horizontal aspect of the island is substantial enough that the build-up of enclosures above water can occur.

The materialisation of the island starts off with the horizontal build-up (A), after which the island eventually becomes habitable through the development of enclosures on ground level (B). For such manifestation to happen with the plastic below sea-level, there has to be some sort of ‘delivery’ system beneath the land (C). Through such systems, could there be an introduction for the transport of nutrients for different parts of the island?

In the following pictures, I developed a design model to prototype this concepts:

Soldering the framework of (A). A lot of fun but difficult to do with piano wire! I couldn’t do the small pieces as intended…

I used resin for the first time ever! The resin represents the clumping of microplastic onto the framework. The framework echoed the considered shape of the islands. The next step will be to solder the enclosures (B)!