Fernan Federici

Fernan Federici is a visiting investigator at PUC-Chile (PAI Conicyt-funded). He started his career studying two years of engineering at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo (Argentina) and then moved to Chile to obtain a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology (PUC, Chile). He worked for a year at Alvarez Buylla’s lab at UNAM, México and moved to the United Kingdom to obtain a Ph.D. in biological sciences at the University of Cambridge. Fernan was a postdoctoral researcher in Jim Haseloff’s lab at the University of Cambridge working in the area of plant synthetic biology in a project entitled “The Programmable Rhizosphere.”

David Benjamin

David Benjamin is principal at architecture firm The Living and director of the Living Architecture Lab at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.The practice and the lab explore new technologies and create prototypes of the architecture of the future. Recent projects include Living City (a platform for buildings to talk to one another), Amphibious Architecture (a cloud of light above the East River that changes color according to conditions underwater), Living Light (a pavilion in Seoul that displays air quality and collective interest in the environment), and Proof (a series of design studios at Columbia that use evolutionary computation to discover novel, high-performing designs). Before receiving a master of architecture degree from Columbia, Benjamin graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in social studies. He is currently working, in collaboration with Fernan Federici and Tim Rudge (Cambridge University) on the establishment of new educational platforms that combine architecture and synthetic biology.
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Project Synopsis

We are exploring new ways of using biological systems as design tools. In our collaboration, we are investigating several ways to combine synthetic biology and architecture with a focus on using cells as bio-processors.
 
Bio-Fabrication
In contrast to digital fabrication and CNC machines with a fixed and pre-determined physical output, we are experimenting with the manipulation of biological systems for a bottom-up approach to design. We are investigating multiple ways to fabricate synthetic composites by generating novel morphogenetic mechanisms in bacteria and plants. This may involve using bacterial patterning for the assembly of bio-materials.  It may also involve using the regulated spatial distribution of plant cells for the creation of novel composites through material deposition and cross link.
 
Bio-Computing
While there are many examples of identifying and using the form of nature in design and architecture, there are few examples of identifying and using the logic of nature. We are experimenting methods of extracting complex behaviors of cells at the scale of microns and applying them to architecture at the scale of meters. We are investigating the use of 3D lignocellulosic patterns in xylem cells to solve architectural structure design problems. But we are aware of the limits of translation, and we are attempting to identify exactly where scaling up might break down.

Architecture Education
We are developing methods for incorporating synthetic biology into architecture design studios and teaching new processes of design with biology.

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22/02/2012 – 20:40 – Jason Hitchcock said:
How do you see the incorporation of synthetic biology into architecture design studios taking place? What are some outcomes that you would expect from such a studio? What are different ways architects can approach synthetic biology and its application to building design?
06/07/2011 – 21:24 – William Myers said:
I look forward to reading more about this project as it progresses. On bio-fabrication, you might be interested in research at Delft into bioplastics and the process of "training" bacteria populations over several generations in order to direct their behavior: http://tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/getrainde-bacter...
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"Biocomputation" in Paris and Rotterdam

 

"Biocomputation" by David Benjamin and Fernan Federici has recently been exhibited at En Vie/ Alive: New Design Frontiers at the Espace Fondation EDF, Paris, France, April 26 2013–September 1 2013. It was also shown at at Biodesign at the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam, September 27 2013–January 26 2014, curated by William Myers. 

"In the growing discipline of synthetic biology, living systems are engineered to help solve problems across various industries. For this project, David Benjamin and his firm The Living are designing new composite building materials through a pioneering intersection of synthetic biology, architecture, and computation. These new composite materials offer insight into the near future when synthetic biology may help us design and manufacture the built environment with higher performance and lower environmental impact than traditional methods.

In this project, bacteria become factories for manufacturing building materials through a combination of three of their natural features. Bacteria can produce flexible, fabric-like substance as well as rigid, brick-like substance. Bacteria can also generate complex, self-organised patterns. In an experiment combining these features, two different types of genetically modified bacteria are mixed in a large petri dish with nutrients, and through their growth and interaction they generate flat sheets of material with distinct rigid and flexible regions.

This process, which is still being refined in the lab, is then modelled in a software workflow. Thousands of design options are explored by varying the properties of the bacteria, which translates into different patterns in the sheets. The software workflow is built through Autodesk Maya and custom plug-ins, and it uses techniques of simulation and optimisation common in aerospace and architectural design.

The resulting composite sheets have novel properties of structure and transparency, and they can be applied to new high-performance envelopes in buildings, boats and aeroplanes. In the experiment documented in this exhibit, new composite sheets are designed for potential use in an aeroplane envelope. In the future, these processes of bio-computation and bio-fabrication will offer many more possibilities for design."

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Testing bacterial composites for synbio architecture

Video by Fernan Federici & David Benjamin, StudioX, New York (GSAPP, Columbia University) as part of their ongoing collaboration.

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Xylem Cell

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Bacterial Patterns

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"Despite the fact that [bacteria] are microscopic, together they weigh more than all the planet's plants and animals combined." -The Transformer Protocol, National Centre for Biotechnology Education, The University of Reading
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Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe

By Charles and Ray Eames, 1977

 

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