June 20-July 29, 2011
David Benjamin, founder of architecture firm The Living, developed a software prototype in the IDEA Studio to model, simulate, and optimize synthetic biology systems.
Synthetic biology and architecture
In the growing discipline of synthetic biology, living systems are engineered to help solve problems across various industries. For this project, Benjamin explored a pioneering intersection between synthetic biology, architecture, and computation.
Combining Maya software and customized scripts, Benjamin developed a prototype software workflow to enable the creation of composite materials with unique properties. Simulating bacterial patterns at a microscopic level uncovers centimeter-scale patterns that act as the basis for the creation of new composite building materials. These new materials introduce novel design possibilities at an architectural scale.
Testing and simulation
Benjamin’s process began by mimicking the behavior of two types of bacteria in a computer-simulated chemical environment. He tested the structural performance of the resulting composite material—a sheet with stiff, brick-like regions and flexible, fabric-like regions. Benjamin then used multi-objective optimization to explore design combinations that were high-performing and unexpected.