School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

News Item

Experimental architecture featured in Sunday Times Magazine

The Sunday Times magazine carried a feature on 29 March on what the future holds in terms of innovative ideas and includes mention of Professor Rachel Armstrong's 'self growing skyscrapers', part of her research into living architecture.

The article (pp38,43) says:

“… one of the narratives features self-growing skyscrapers , a notion that seems wildly sci-fi until you talk to Rachel Armstrong, professor of experimental architecture at Newcastle University. She hasn't grown any buildings yet but draws on unconventional computing to try to explore a less environmentally destructive 'living architecture'.

Whereas traditional architecture takes natural materials and forces them into alien contexts (e.g. turning clay into bricks), wasting much energy in the process, living architecture aims to adapt or create new materials that intrinsically do what we want them to - for instance, self-repair or grow into hard structures, or extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Rather than try to save Venice by replacing its wooden stilts, asks Armstrong, why not grow an artificial limestone reef under it?

She believes that the advent of the internet has brought about a 'new nature: the millennial nature, which has a technological character', "It's very different to the 20th century idea of nature, which was anti-human, or seen as something we're apart from and need to either conserve or drain as natural capital."

We can't go on for ever with a model of economic development that throws billion of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as cites, countries, industries expand, not the gargantuan energy demands of the data farms that process our online life. Unconventional computing and the self-organising materials it points to - programmed to "grow" structures the way plants or crystals do - suggest a less destructive path forward.” 


published on: 30 March 2015