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Brenda Parker and Marcos Cruz
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Pavilion for the St Andrews Botanic Garden, Scotland

The Bioscope is a building folly set in the St Andrews Botanic Garden, and the locus for experimentation with new living materials - biohybrid panels grown from microoganisms.

The Bioscope was conceived as a shelter, with a vision of creating an ornamental structure that punctuates the garden while merging with the existing glade. Dappled sunlight from the neighbouring trees and shadow play of the interlocking components invites observation and contemplation. The interior perspective permits us to momentarily inhabit this unique place of the garden, allowing a different perspective on the surrounding biodiversity through the macrostructure of the walls.

Entrance and side views

The Bioscope is an experimental construction with particular expressive qualities reminiscent of a thistle. This was generated by turning the linear structure inside out, at the same time protecting the soft biological cladding inside. The resulting three-dimensional manifold triggers a sense of curiosity from the outside, in contrasts to the atmospheric immersion inside, a Stimmung.

Location with distances from existing vegetation

Evolving over the seasons, the Bioscope is a living lab for testing two novel bio-integrated materials that have been developed by Bio-ID doctral students Ella Hetherington and Prantar Tamuli respectively: a woven melanin-violacein composite and an engineered living material (ELM). It is a prototype for a future habitat in which digitally-design timber constructions with grown materials become a new medium for architecture. It offers a new responsive material palette that absorbs carbon while supporting exchange with our surroundings.

Preliminary drawings of interior cladding
Phasing of assembly
Laser-cutting of plywood boards

Within the Bioscope we can begin to envision how the biome of our future structures will actively enable connection and ecological participation with water and nutrient cycles as well as supporting diverse microbial communities. Exchanges with the surrounding will reveal some of the richness present within the biome of the botanic garden and the potential applications.

Interior space with cladding of biological panels and stools
Woven screen with violacein, doctoral research of Ella Hetherington
Translucent ELM with glass-fibre reinforcement, doctoral research of Prantar Tamuli

Light is modulated through a series of panels containing bacterial pigments that have important roles in plant-microbe interactions. Melanin produced by the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis acts a photoprotective compound against ultraviolet light. Melanin refers to a family of chemical compounds that have functions in binding metals and act as natural semi-conductors. Here, a series of scaled-up screens created through a digital seeding process are presented.

Material study of hydrogel dyed with natural pigments
Material study of scaled-up engineered living material

The entrance of the Bioscope houses a series of biomineralized panels, created through the photosynthetic process of a filamentous cyanobacteria called Oscillatoria animalis. As this blue-green alga grows, it binds the aggregate material together,depositing calcium carbonate into the matrix and strengthening the biocomposite. Engineered living materials such as this could provide new low-carbon options for construction.


Team: Brenda Parker and Marcos Cruz

Collaboration (design): David Edwards

Microbial Pigment Biohybrid Panels: Ella Hetherington (UCL Bio-ID)

ELM Panels: Prantar Tamuli (UCL Bio-ID / Tattva)

CNC routing: Hamish Veitch, Lucy Flanders, Mark Burrows/ UCL B-Made; McRobb Display Limited, Edinburgh

Construction and pre-assembly: David Watson and Peter Baxter (SABG),

David Philip Edwards, Ian Robinson, Ella Hetherington, Prantar Tamuli, Hannah Laeverenz-Schlogelhofer

Structural engineering: Clancy Engineering, Glasgow

Support: WCMT Activate Fund; AHRC Impact Accelerator Award

Location: St Andrews Botanic Garden

Year: 2023