Augmented Polycultures

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Augmented Polycultures
Commission / exhibition installation
Brenda Parker, Marcos Cruz, Nina Jotanović
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Installation for bioremediation for the Water Pressure exhibition, Hamburg

The installation for the Museum of Arts and Crafts (MK&G) in Hamburg focuses on the remediation of greywater and surface run-off for a future Biocene House. The structure is proposed as a means of decentralised remediation of a complex mix of surfactants, phosphates, heavy metals and other organic molecules.

Augmented Polycultures with circulating water and algae in exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Crafts (MK&G), Hamburg

Previous work has shown that even challenging and toxic compounds can be degraded using consortia of algae and bacteria working in partnership and exchanging nutrients to form a stable autonomous system. Biofilms are emergent assemblages of algae and bacteria, that have important roles in nutrient cycles and remediation of pollutants.

Inoculation of cermics with algae

We have also been working on ceramic systems with more control over porosity and using morphology and glazing to explore bioreceptivity, and control where growth happens. Through computational design and advanced manufacturing we create a water recirculating mechanisms that promotes the growth of microbial communities, enhancing the acceptability of such potentially abject conditions in heterogenous biomes.

Robotic non-planar extrusion of ceramic brick-tiles (Yao Yao Meng); CNC milling of test prototype (Guillem Perutxet Olesti) at B-MADE, UCL Here East
Post-production of firing and glazing of ceramic brick-tiles with installation on plywood structure at B-MADE, UCL Here East
biofilm formation on the upper remediation body and lower cistern

The design of the ceramic tile-bricks that form the main bioremediation body aimed at creating a three-dimensional infolding geometry in which striated non-planar extrusion paths as well as additionally crevices increased the residency time and micro-environmental conditions for the the algae consortia to grow.

Preliminary design iterations of remediation body
Final iterations of bioremedation body

The overall flow of water and its residence time is defined by the material porosity of the sand glazed and non-glazed ceramics and the surface morphology with its inner circulation channels.

Testing of water dynamics on remediation body and upper 'tarn' through digital simulations and physical water run-offs; design of water outlest (bottom left image)
Study of morphological gradient with inner and outer cravices

A quintessential part of the Augmented Polycultures structure is the cistern that hosts a water reservoir as well as a submerged pump that feeds the top outlet. The shape of the cistern, initially integrated in a plinth, was done considering the amount of water it had to cointain, as well as the relationship between the upper and lower parts of the structure. The pattern of the cistern's top surface was created with an inclination and geometry to substantially slow down the water run-off.

Design evolution of cistern

The design and manufacturing of the cistern was led by Nina Jontanović in Belgrade, Serbia. Due to the sheer size of cistern the process had to be subdivided into a two-part slip cast with laylor-made plaster moulds for for each component.

Manufacturing of moulds and slip cast of cistern at Stari Zanat, Belgrade


Team: Brenda Parker, Marcos Cruz, Nina Jotanović

Robotic ceramic extrusions: Yao Yao Meng, Guillem Perutxet Olesti, Pradeep Devadass

Computational design: Tony Le

Collaboration (robotic extrusions): Yifan Shi

Ceramic slipcast (Belgrade): Nina Jotanović with Dejan Petrović at Stari Zanat

UCL B-Made support: Hamish Veitch, Claudia Toma, Alice Foxen, Mark Burrows

Sponsorship: EPSRC VaxHub Sustainable , University College London

Location: Museum of Arts and Crafts / Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe, Hamburg

Year: 2024