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Urban Algae Folly


A prototype pavilion to overcome segregation between technology and nature.

Urban Algae Folly is an urban installation designed by Ecologic Studio for the Future Food District at Milan Expo 2015. The proposal is part of the team's wider research exploring possible interactions between the human environment and microorganisms through architecture.

The pavilion used an updated version of the ETFE architectural skin system, which was adapted to offer an ideal habitat for Spirulina micro algae. Special CNC welding technology was used for the cladding and enabled the architects 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. The flows of solar energy, water and oxygen were regulated to respond and adjust to weather patterns and visitors' movements in real-time. On sunny summer days the microalgae grew rapidly thus increasing the shading potential of the pavilion and improving human comfort; the presence of visitors in turn activated the digital regulation system which stimulated algal oxygenation, solar insolation and growth. At any moment in time the actual transparency, colour and shading potential of the canopy was the product of this complex set of relationships between the climate, micro-algae, visitors and digital control systems.

Urban Algae Folly is linked to two previous projects by Ecologic studio: the Algae Folly prototype produced in the city of Braga (2015) and the Urban Algae Canopy set up during Fuorisalone in Milan (2014). At the same time it was conceived as a test bed for the latest developments of future bio-digital architecture. The group follows this research path to explore the possibilities of overcoming the segregation between technology and nature typical of the mechanical age: in these prototypes and pavilions, spatial and technological dimensions have been carefully articulated to achieve efficiency, resilience and beauty.


Architect: ecoLogicStudioUrban Algae Folly (2015)
Project location: Milan, Italy
Design Team: Marco Poletto, Claudia Pasquero, Elisa Bolognini, Alessandro Buffi, Julien Sebban
Digital responsive systems: Nick Puckett
Structural Engineering: Mario Segreto, Nicola Morda
Project Managment: Paolo Scoglio
Filmmaker, Editor: Ivan Litvinenko
ETFE contractor: Taiyo Europe GmbH
Timber contractor: Palumbo Legnami
Microalgae supplies: Algain Energy srl
Curator: Carlo Ratti

Italy 2015
Duration: 2'42''