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In researching grown materials, it quickly became apparent that a new technological age of biology is rapidly approaching. I believe we should see this moment as an opportunity to reassess our idea of “sustainable” design.

For my project, a research complex in the sugar cane fields outside Campinas, Brazil. I’ve employed the grown material of Bacterial Cellulose (BC). BC is grown with the bacteria found in Kombucha (Aceotobacter Xylinum) which consumes any raw material with sugar and outputs pure cellulose. This process takes place over the course of a few days within a liquid growing medium. In the context of this project, the bacteria consume the raw sugar can juice from the surrounding fields to produce bacterial cellulose to wrap the entirely of the building.

The fabrication and construction of cellulose at this scale would be profoundly sustainable. The process occurs entirely on site from harvesting of the sugar cane to the fabrication of the cellulose in the growing medium. Also, the bacteria itself is organic and is in fact beneficial to ecological systems while also producing zero emissions throughout its life.

While utilizing bacterial cellulose is demonstrably positive environmentally, my goal with this project is to engage the non-quantifiable: the inherent politics, morality, and perceptions surrounding a new building materiality. In order to interrogate these manifold issues I have created a series of narratives profiling 7 different actors and their relationship to the research complex building. These narratives define a scenario while also informing the design of the building itself, each represented through their own unique media.

There are myriad networks at play within the construction and habitation of a building. Rather than eschewing our current systems completely I believe that in finding the edges of and tweaking our current relationships we can achieve a much broader impact. Perhaps then we can begin to address climate change with the urgency that is needed.

While the Paris Climate Agreement is ostensibly about setting quantifiable goals, I believe its greatest strength is codifying climate change as anthropogenic, and establishing a global consciousness of our role as humans within a greater ecology.

Winner: Buell Center Paris Prize

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