My own work on Near-Living Architecture group at Waterloo, Canada, has integrated densely massed microprocessor-controlled filters containing protocells within suspended canopy and wall surfaces. The structures contain circulation systems that work like lymph and blood in a building enclosure that could one day "breathe". In a prototype building system recently shown at London’s Building Centre Gallery, a floating canopy of laser-cut aluminum meshwork is fitted with dense masses of interconnected glass and polymer filters. The glasswork houses a carbon-capture system that works in much the same way that limestone is deposited by living marine environments. Within each cell of the suspended filter array, valves draw humid air through chemical chambers where chalk-like precipitate forms, an incremental process of carbon fixing.
When we think of designing complex forms of cities, how might particular shapes make a difference? If architects continue to follow the historic traditions that have guided North American and European building designs, we will continue to see trim, clean, stripped surfaces and dense, crystalline forms - pure cubes and rectangles adorned by an occasional sphere or dome as special centrepieces. These shapes evoke a language similar to that of ancient philosopher Plato, who described the world as coming from an inner core of pure geometric forms.
However, there are good reasons to pursue the opposite of these kinds of stripped forms. The shapes that are common within life-giving forests and jungles are the opposite of abstract cubes and spheres. The densely layered forms of a jungle are often made of diffusive, deeply interwoven material that expand and interact with their surroundings. A new city capable of handling unstable conditions – where it could shed heat, cool itself, and then rapidly warm up and gain heat again – might look like a forest. Each building could be made from dense layers of ivy-like filters and multiple overlapping layers of openings.
The experimental buildings illustrated here often tend to be characterised by delicacy. They increasingly move from older forms of a static, rigid world into the dynamic and sensitive qualities of a living metabolism.