masters student looks to algae to create living screens using robotic fabrication masters student looks to algae to create living screens using robotic fabrication
sep 27, 2015

masters student looks to algae to create living screens using robotic fabrication

masters student looks to algae to create living screens using robotic fabrication
all images courtesy of irina shaklova




the debate linked to a more responsive architecture, connected to nature, has been growing since the 1960s. notwithstanding this fact, to this day, architecture is somewhat conservative: following the same principles with the belief in rigidity, solidity, and longevity. bio-inspiration highlights a sensitive observation of biological processes and their transfer into novel design methodologies for the creation of innovative architectural explorations. research by masters student irina shaklova at the institute for advanced architecture of catalonia, proposes to explore the possibilities of creating living systems by means of robotic fabrication techniques using algae as a biomaterial, thus raising the question of how to design with a material that lives, grows and dies.

main features of the project




the experiments developed were based on aerial algae, which obtains very similar properties in terms of photosynthesis comparing to aquatic algae, but does not need constant flow of water – although a certain humidity level must be maintained – in order to stay alive. another interesting feature of algae is that when environmental conditions are adverse, algae goes into a form of hibernation until conditions are once again favorable. with this being said, shaklova believes aerial algae is much better suited for use in terms of maintenance. so the decision was taken to 3D print algae medium with an embedded culture, using a robotic arm fitted with a pump extruder.


video courtesy of irina shaklova




the final result represents the first large-scale hydro-gel print with the size of 1.5m by 4m. it was designed according to previous material tests and demonstrates that better results can be achieved by printing a pattern with one continuous line, creating line intersections which enhance the structural capabilities of the screen. this fabrication method demonstrates that it can be made faster, with an overall system reduction that is relatively maintenance free. 

algae growth tests in different mediums


algae clusters growing in gel


robotic fabrication


material tests


printing tests


finalizing the design


final printing


algae behavior in dry and humid environments


the final print

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