Rachel Armstrong - Life: The Ultimate Technology
University of Warwick, 18-19 June 2011
Rachel Armstrong is Senior Lecturer, Research & Enterprise and Co-Director of AVATAR (Advanced Virtual and Technological Architectural Research) in Architecture & Synthetic Biology at The The University of Greenwich. She is a Senior TED Fellow, and Visiting Research Assistant at the Center for Fundamental Living Technology, Department of Physics and Chemistry, University of Southern Denmark. Her research investigates a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture,’ that suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems.
Life: The Ultimate Technology
The concept of ‘living technology’ calls attention to the fact that modern science is increasingly capable of engineering systems whose power is based on the core features of life (ISSP, online). My research investigates the development of ‘living materials’, a particular example of living technology, which exploits the energetics inherent in terrestrial matter to create design solutions for the built environment that are ‘programmable’ using chemistry and physics. Many of these properties are regarded as characteristic of ‘life’ but do not infer ‘aliveness’ on the system. The particular system that I am investigating is a dynamic oil in water droplet system, which is capable of emergent behaviour and demonstrates some complex properties that can be thought of as architectural: shedding skins, motility, modification of the environment, population scale behaviour and the production of complex structures. Speculative proposals for applications of these ‘living materials’ in the built environment are explored, particularly with respect to environmental interventions such as, the development of carbon fixing surfaces, reclaiming the city of Venice by growing an artificial limestone reef underneath it, oil producing solar panels and water producing claddings.