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Rasa-Rebecca Weber

Growing Matter

Beginn des PhD-Programms / Start of the PhD-Program​: WS 2021

Betreuung / Supervision:
Karmen Franinovic (ZHdK)
Karin Harrasser

We face an epochal shift in relationship to the natural resources that form our urban environment. The building industry‘s common practice of categorizing unused material as ‘waste‘ flies in the face of an impending global raw material scarcity. The paradox of our established mode of construction lies in an increasing awareness of the urgency to find ‘circular‘ solutions for the building industry and a constantly decreasing durability of our newly built architectures. This accelerated mode of construction affects terrestrial and maritime ecologies alike (with offshore sand mining, fracking, et al.). The reigning politicaleconomic paradigm applied the maxim of faster and cheaper production to both new construction and the search for extractive answers to this imminent material shortage. At the same time, the language of ecological awareness seems to be inextricably intertwined with the common imperative of economic growth. It is to be questioned if these declared ‘sustainable‘ solutions have so far sufficiently addressed the problematic state of the relationship to our urban matter.Facing such ‘catastrophic times’2, the emerging field of ‘Living Architecture’ introduces a different perspective on the building process as a highly complex, entangled and growing system. In the philosophical tradition of ‘New Materialism’, architects and designers start exploring the notion of agency by researching active material properties and their relation to our urban environment. First attempts to rethink the agency of bio-based materials have mainly focused on organic matter, such as mycelium, algae or bacteria, as building components for a new mode of construction. Meanwhile inorganic material has not fully unfolded its potential as vibrant matter yet. Following the research of architect and oceanographer Wolf Hilbertz3, who introduced the concept of growing submarine mineral structures by the name of ‘Seacrete’ or ‘Biorock’ in 1970, the practice-based research project ‘Growing Matter’ observes the notion of programming inorganic mineral structures as autonomously growing system in architecture. The project poses the question, if and how we can conceptualize postfossil material processes in maritime conditions that provide potential alternatives to our common practice of mining natural resources. By emphasizing the sympoiesis (σύν = ‘together’, ποίησις = ‘creation’) of mineral systems I am focussing on their adaptability, metabolism, coevoution, potential decomposition and wild growth. This material-driven design strategy prioritizes the exploration of active material properties over technological possibilities and questions the idea of a human-centered architectural program in favor of new ecological alliances. The practice-based project examines how inorganic processes of growth can foster a new relation between synthetic biology, maritime research and architecture, in order to critically evaluate their potential for establishing alternative building strategies of ecological co-habitation. How can we design meaningful bio-technological interactions of mineral growth that enable a new mode of constructing bioreceptive systems in architecture?