Algae is the seemingly unlikely term that is being discussed at the heart of EXPO Milano 2015. As part of the Future Food District project, being developed by Carlo Ratti Associati at the central crossroads of the EXPO site, the pavilions’ façades and canopy utilize new systems of micro-algae, designed by Cesare Griffa and ecoLogicStudio.
“The functioning principle of the prototypes is based on the exceptional properties of micro- algae organisms, which are ten times more efficient photosynthetic machines compared to large trees and grasses” - explains Carlo Ratti, curator of the Future Food District. “The façade and canopy currently being developed for EXPO Milano 2015 develop a natural man- made ecology and explore the use of algae as an integrated architectural cladding and urban agriculture system.” Algae can represent an important part of creating a healthy and liveable planet. Giving life to mysterious urban gardens, algae can be used as an innovative energy and food production system within our cities. Micro-algae perform an important photosynthetic activity, absorbing considerable amounts of carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, and growing into a biomass, which can be processed for energy, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets. “Micro-algae open up an incredible potential for new renewable energy resources, and hope for a greener future” - explains Cesare Griffa. “Building and architectural surfaces are an incredible resource of space. Urban façades and roofs represent billions of square metres that instead of being made of an inanimate material such as concrete, could become clever photosynthetic surfaces that respond to the current state of climate warming. Micro-algae could add to the green urban system that exists already, intensifying carbon dioxide fixation activity and acting as cladding for buildings, increasing their passive performance.”
Urban Algae Canopy - based on ecoLogicStudio’s ‘HORTUS’ system, is presented here with a 1:1 scale prototype of the world’s first bio-digital canopy integrating micro-algal cultures and real time digital cultivation protocols on a unique architectural system. The potential of micro-algae have been integrated within a custom designed four-layered ETFE cladding system, whilst the flows of energy, water and CO2 are controlled and regulated in real-time and made to respond and adjust to weather patterns and visitors’ movements. Once completed, as part of the EXPO Milano 2015 Future Food District, this special edition of the Urban Algae Canopy will produce the equivalent amount of oxygen as four hectares of woodland, and up to 150kg of biomass per day - 60% of which are natural vegetal proteins. The Urban Algae Façade - based on Cesare Griffa’s ‘WaterLilly 2.0’ system - is the prototype of a micro-algae façade, being developed in a special edition for EXPO Milano 2015. ‘WaterLilly 2.0’ is a project for a micro-algae vertical farm to be implemented as an architectural skin. The intention here is that, integrated into the green system of the cities, micro-algae can help in absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, while acting as a second skin of buildings, boosting passive cooling and increasing shading of the façade. “It is now time to overcome the segregation between technology and nature typical of the mechanical age, to embrace a systemic understanding of architecture” - concludes Claudia Pasquero of ecoLogicStudio. “In these Urban Algae prototypes the boundaries between the material, spatial and technological dimension have been carefully articulated to achieve efficiency, resilience and beauty.”
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