Architecture is bigger than itself.
The future will pose tremendous challenges to how architecture and cities are conceived, requiring comprehensive and scalable solutions, often found outside of what we traditionally call “architecture”. So after hundreds of interviews with architects that we’ve conducted, we realized that in order to confront these challenges we needed to expand our focus. For the first time, we invited to our office an “architect” of life, Andrew Hessel, co-chair of the Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Program at Singularity University and leader in the field of synthetic biology (the design of life through the use of information technology).
Andrew’s work focuses on designing viruses with the potential to cure cancer; however, he is fascinated by the ways in which genetic engineering could actually help human beings shape their environment, and how biotechnology will allow us to merge the natural and built worlds:
“We don’t live in nature any more – we put boxes around it. But now we can actually engineer nature to sustain our needs. All we have to do is design the code and it will self-create. Our visions today – if we can encapsulate them in a seed – [will] grow to actually fulfill that vision. [...] One day, who knows, maybe we’ll plant a seed and grow a sky scraper, that has all the nutrients it needs to stay warm, to literally react to our environment, maybe even keep an eye on us, protect us, nurture us. It’s just all in the design.”
What if we really could “plant” and “grow” a house? What if we could use modified trees as street lamps? Clearly, this disrupts the way we traditionally conceive of architecture, but it also opens many doors for a more sustainable future.
Andrew has recently joined Autodesk as a researcher for “creating platforms for imagining, designing, and creating molecular and living systems”. Autodesk is entering the nanoscale engineering business and exploring into software for printing tissue and 4D materials. So, if the company that produces the most used tools for the architecture industry is now exploring and making these new worlds accessible, why shouldn’t architecture embrace it?