PHOTOSYNTHETICA TOWER LINZ – Urban Metabolism. Approaches on the Ecology of Cities

26 / 11 / 17

by ecoLogicStudio London with the Synthetic Landscape Lab at the University of Innsbruck.

Our current stage of technological evolution, notably in the forms of synthetic biology or artificial intelligence, is rendering obsolete traditional dichotomies such as natural and artificial, material and digital, human and non-human. The city of Linz embodies this condition as it transitions from polluted industrial centre to a future powerhouse of bio-digital culture and technology.

The PhotoSynthetica Tower project envisions the architectural materialisation of this transition. At the city scale it appears as a complex synthetic organism in which bacteria, swarm machines and other forms of animal intelligence become, alongside humans, bio-citizens, thus contributing to the formation and transformation of Linz’s own synthetic urban landscape.

The convoluted morphology of PhotoSynthetica Tower and its sheer scale promote a significant microclimatic effect on the prevailing winds, generating enough draft and turbulence to force both natural seeds and air polluting particles through it porous skin. Each module of this skin is then activated to evolve a unique function.

Some components are photo-bioreactors, custom-printed bioplastic containers that focus sunlight to feed living micro-algal-cultures and release luminescent shades at night. Unfiltered urban air is dragged in at the bottom of each module. Air bubbles naturally rise through the watery medium within each photo-bioreactor, thus coming into contact with the voracious microbes. CO2 molecules and air pollutants are captured and stored by the algae and grow into new biomass. Freshly photosynthesized oxygen is released at the other end of the module and naturally channelled into the vast inner lobby of the tower. Here a clean urban microclimate is synthesised onto which all inhabitable units can open.

Other components become receptive to seeds and other wild plants, thus forming emerging artificial habitats. These biotopes will remain open to wildlife, including insects and migrating birds. The biomass that grows in all the active areas of the tower is made available to the occupants of the building itself, supplying a plethora of emerging activities and industries that will define the programmatic mix of the building itself and its occupational patterns, both in the case of human and non-human inhabitants.
Bio-digital research units, gardening centres, wildlife observation terraces, self-sufficient dwelling and a potentially infinite variety of other programmatic combinations will be supported by the continuous catalytic action of the tower that will constantly re-metabolise anthropic pollution as well as biotic contamination into local circular economies of raw materials, data and energy.
ecoLogicStudio’s founders argue: “Smart cities, bio-homes, autonomous vehicles and robotic factories dominate the current panorama of popular futuristic scenarios. These, however, all desperately need spatial and architectural re-framing to engender beneficial societal transitions. PhotoSynthetica Tower represents a significant and concrete step in delivering such spatial framework to our contemporary cities”.

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