EPISODE 8: PHOTOSYNTHETICS
The discovery of photosynthesis, the process through which plants transform sunlight into oxygen and sugar, was credited to a scientist 223 years ago, but has been part of everyday life for a billion years. Photosynthesis on earth means livability. Over time, the work of tiny chloroplast machines lodged in the cells of plants, along with the fungi that transform dead plants into nutrients, fundamentally altered the atmosphere and the soil, making the planet hospitable to animals and humans. Plants have evolved to utilize the sun in super-efficient and life-giving ways, and designers are now asking how humans can use the power of plants in more innovative ways to improve our built environment. How might plant-based cities transform the way we live, work, eat, sleep, and take care of our spaces?
For thousands of years before industrialization, our global built environments were plant-based, constructed with straw and wood. But rather than return to small-scale construction, today we face a new challenge: How can tall, dense settlements become more plant-based? Already, modern life relies heavily on trees for paper and packaging, but is this the best use of plants? One example shows that the wood fiber in the packaging used by 400 people over one year is equivalent to the amount that could build an 18-story mass-timber tower and provide housing for those 400 people. The way people design certain plant species and fungi into the built environment has the potential to once again fundamentally shift Earth’s atmosphere, increasing biodiversity and enriching soil. What might life look like as our mineral-based lives become biodegradable?
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Lindsey Wikstrom is the cofounding principal of Mattaforma, a design and research practice, and an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Her Core I architecture studio explores the generative potential of material sourcing, commons, and renewability, while her Advanced IV studio focuses on the architectural and urban implications of biodiverse mass timber. Her research has been supported by the SOM Foundation, published in Embodied Energy and Design: Making Architecture between Metrics and Narratives, and exhibited at the XXII Triennale di Milano, Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival. Wikstrom has a forthcoming essay in Cite and a book project with Routledge.
Jan Jongert graduated as an architect at the Academy of Architecture Rotterdam in 2003 and cofounded Superuse in 1997. He designs spaces and develops strategies to facilitate the transition to a responsible society via projects that empower local exchange and production. Creating an alternative to transporting and wasting our resources, products, and components around the globe, he specializes in the behavior of flows in interior, industrial, and urban environments. His work emphasizes shortcutting and interconnecting flows as a means to create new value and support for communities that take responsibility over their environment.
Pascal Leboucq is a designer and scenographer. He was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and specialized in public space at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Besides his work for New Heroes, Leboucq develops his own projects and works as a freelance scenographer for different theater companies. At New Heroes, Pascal creates urban art installations and cross-disciplinary scenographies.
Mae-ling Lokko is an architectural scientist, designer, and educator from Ghana and the Philippines who works with agro-waste and renewable, bio-based materials. Through her work, Lokko explores themes of “generative justice” through the development of new models of distributed production and intersectoral collaboration. She is an assistant professor at Yale University’s School of Architecture and the founder of Willow Technologies, which focuses on research, design, and development of bio-based building materials. Her recent projects have been exhibited in UAE, Belgium, Netherlands, the UK, and Italy. Lokko holds a PhD and a master’s degree from the Center of Architecture, Science and Ecology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and BA from Tufts University.
Egija Inzule is curator and director of NAC of Vilnius Academy of Arts in Nida, Lithuania. In order to respond to the hybrid character of NAC that includes running a residency programme, organising Nida Doctoral School for PhD and DA fellows, curating the arts programme and artists’ commissions, hosting students’ seminars and managing the general premises of NAC, Inzule works on developing processes and initiate long-term productions that emerge from a historical, geopolitical and sociopolitical analysis and reflection of the Curonian Spit with a focus on the agency of NAC in this context. Inzule has worked as curator in the teams of castillo/corrales, Paris; Istituto Svizzero di Roma; and Shedhalle, Zurich. She is currently based between Zurich and Nida.
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This session will be led virtually through Zoom, a free video-conferencing software. Participants are encouraged to use a computer, smartphone, or tablet with a camera and Internet access, if possible. Participants may also dial in using a phone line. Participants will receive a Zoom link upon registering.
This event was made possible through a generous gift from Emilio Ambasz. The Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment is a platform for fostering dialogue, promoting conversation, and facilitating research about the relationship between the built and natural environment, with the aim of making the interaction between architecture and ecology visible and accessible to the wider public while highlighting the urgent need for an ecological recalibration.