BiotA Lab is an innovative design research platform that merges architecture, biology and engineering. It is based at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, one of the world leading research universities. The lab explores new modes of simulation and production in architecture, as well as advances in the field of synthetic biology, biotechnology, molecular engineering and material sciences, and how these subjects are leading towards an ever-increasing multidisciplinary approach to environmental design. The result is a new sense of materiality, new hybrid technologies and unprecedented living forms that are redefining not only building design, but our whole built environment.
Members / Collaborations:
BiotA Lab is run by Professor Marcos Cruz (Director) and Richard Beckett (Co-Director) and an interdisciplinary group of teachers and researchers. Current members include Dr Chris Leung (design and research engineering), DR Guan Lee (design and manufacturing / Grymsdyke Farm), Vicente Soler (design and robotics), and Javier Ruiz (design and simulations); and for the EPSRC-funded research Prof Bill Watts (environmental design and engineering / Max Fordhams) and Dr Sandra Manso (biology and material science / UPC Barcelona).
BiotA Lab also integrates students of RC5 and RC7 in the MArch Architectural Design programme, as well as PhD-by-Design students who form part of an international network of experts in environmentally led design and novel applications of advanced biotechnologies in architecture. Regular critics include leading academics such as Prof Frederic Migayrou (B.Pro Bartlett / Centre Pompidou Paris), Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson (Arch ID University of Newcastle), Alisa Andrasek (Wonderlab Bartlett / Biothing), Andrew Porter (Bartlett / Ashton Porter), Dr Yael Reisner (Yael Reisner architects), Manuel Jimenez (m(a)dM design), amongst many others; while thesis supervision is provided by Professor Mario Carpo (Bartlett), Natsai Audrey Chiesa (Central Saint Martins and UCL), Dr Brenda Parker (UCL Biochemical Engineering), Dr Sean Hanna (Bartlett Space Syntax), Oliver Wilton (Bartlett), and Paul Bavister (APL).
Academic collaborations of BiotA also involve ArchID Lab at the University of Newcastle UK; C-Biom.A at the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia / IaaC Spain; REX Lab at the University of Innsbruck Austria; and Grymsdyke Farm.
BiotA Lab work is produced between the design studio and laboratory where innovative building systems are developed with the help of advanced computation. Modelling and simulation tools are implemented in parallel to material testing and organic growth in real laboratory conditions, providing feedback and data for the fabrication of construction components and prototypes.
Students and researchers design, grow and build bio-digital prototypes that explore a new ecological model for architecture, responding to specific climates based upon the relationship between environmental conditions and the interfacial properties of materials with mircro-organisms. In opposition to the traditional complexities and highly costly ‘green architecture’, BiotA explores an alternative symbiosis between buildings and nature that is more computationally sophisticated, and far less costly for buildings in high-dense cities.
Current research Computational seeding of bioreceptive materials is an EPSRC funded project in the UK done in collaboration with industrial partner Laing O’Rourke. It relies on the advisory support of the British Precast Federation; Multiphase Flow and Porous Media Research Group / University of Manchester; green walls specialists Biotecture; and the UCL Centre for Nature-Inspired Engineering, UCL Institute of Making, UCL Algae and B-Made; along with expertise in landscape architecture, urban planning and environmental design.
Opportunities / Dissemination:
Members of the BiotA Lab develop unique skills that bridge innovative computational design, materials, fabrication and laboratory protocols. This makes former students and researchers highly desirable in a wide range of architectural practices and laboratories with a particular focus on computational, ecological and bio-integrated design. The cross-collaborative nature of the work allows BiotA Lab students to work individually as cutting edge designers and as part of greater teams that are exploring new design agendas that respond to the increasing environmental challenges in our cities.
Work produced in the BiotA Lab is also regularly exhibited and presented in international events, including Syn.de.Bio (2014), Biofabricate (2015), Biosalon (2015) and the forthcoming Ecobuild in London (2016). Projects have been disseminated in publications such as The Atlantic, Co-Design / Fast Company Magazine, B.Pro catalogues and the forthcoming edition on architecture as synthetic biology in Architecture Quaterly / Cambridge University Press.