As populations explode and natural resources dwindle, global visionaries are exploring alternative sources of sustenance - and ecoLogic Studio has been at the forefront of this pursuit for several years. Their most recent project, the Urban Algae Folly, is the world's first living edible architecture. Inegrating micro-algal cultures and real-time digital cultivation, the system produces 35g of Chlorella every day - or the protein equivalent of 750 grams of meat per day. In just 6 months, the folly can produce the same amount of protein as a small cow, which, according to the designers, is sufficient to feed four people.
Originally presented at the Milan Expo earlier this year, the Urban Algae Folly is a sculptural but functional piece of bio-digital architecture made of micro-algae organisms. Currently on display at the Praça da República, Braga, in Portugal, it is both responsive and adaptive. When the sun shines on the structure, the algae flowing through a series of bags and tubes photosynthesize, constantly changing the appearance in response to the weather conditions of the day.
“The exceptional properties of microalgae organisms [Chlorella vulgaris in this case] are enhanced by their cultivation within a custom designed soft ETFE cladding system,” the design studio explained to Inhabitat in an email report. “A special CNC welding technology is at the core of it and enables ecoLogicStudio to design and control the morphology of the cushions under stress as well as the fluid dynamic behaviour of the nutritious medium as it travels through it.”
ecoLogic Studio further explains the flow of solar energy, water and oxygen are regulated to respond to visitor’s movements as well. “Their presence will trigger electro valves to alter the speed of algal flow through the folly provoking an emergent differentiation across the space. In any moment in time the actual transparency and colour of the folly will be the product of this complex set of relationships among climate, micro-algae, visitors and digital control systems.”
While this might seem slightly complicated, the folly is producing food and energy in a show-stopping, out-of-the-box kind of way. The people of Braga appear fascinated to learn about the structure, as the photos in the gallery suggest, allowing them to think about possibilities beyond our current food production methods. A system like this not only reduces carbon emissions, but may also assuage vegetarians and vegans who abstain from eating meat for moral reasons. We may not be in a rush to install one of these in our backyard, but there is no question this project gives us tremendous food for thought.