Meat houses, McMansions on wheels, and cars that kiss and hug might sound like ideas for an unpublished Dr. Seuss novel, but they are all real concepts championed by architect Mitchell Joachim in his quest to make our cities more sustainable. Joachim is one of our Featured Speakers at Dwell on Design this year, and his work spans the fields of architecture, technology and biology. He'll talk about his ongoing collaborations with a group of like-minded brainiacs at OneLab, his studio in Brooklyn, with Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dameron at 4:00 p.m. on the Design Innovation Stage on Friday, June 22nd.
Dwell readers are familiar with prefab houses, but in your Fab Tree Hab kit you suggest actually creating our homes from living trees?
This has existed for 2,500 years—there are stories of trees turning into Greek temples. What we’ve added is computation, using a computer numeric-controlled milling machine to prefab the scaffolding. It’s the belief of biologist Dr. John Todd: Take a piece of nature as it is and just gently nudge it for programmatic use for humans without damaging it. It's a different approach to architecture in that it's living.
You have another concept that might not be as palatable for the modern homeowner: a meat house?
The technology has been there since 2001 and we've made it into a DIY procedure using regenerative medicine. What we do is modify your typical inkjet printer to produce cells in flat shapes. It's not a living organ; it's tissue engineering using extracellular matrices from pigs—it's just pork, and you shape it. What they've been using it for is replacing part of a knee or bladder or esophagus. It's just printed Jell-O. It's biological industrial design.
In both cases you can “grow” a truly sustainable house.
I have this argument about Frank Lloyd Wright, who I love, but he’s the grandpa’s version of organic. He used natural materials to mimic nature. We are actually working with biological materials to make biological architecture.
Moving through our cities more safely and efficiently has become one of the biggest challenges facing designers. Why do we need softer cars?
Cities have been designed around cars for the last century, but we clearly need new technology. Cities are very congested and populations are skyrocketing. So what if we could see congestion as a positive aspect? We can move in flocks and herds, and when we touch and scuff each other, it wouldn’t hurt the surface of your vehicle? What we have now are hard surfaces that say “Don't touch me!” Almost a hundred years of car design and all they can think of is sheet metal? We wanted something like a sneaker, made from air bladders or starch or foam, cars that were airbags in airbags. They’re multidirectional, they hug and kiss and they don’t move fast. In a place like L.A., it could change your basic approach to moving in cities.
What are you going to be speaking about at this year's Dwell on Design?
I'll be talking about future cites and how we think about all kinds of scale simultaneously. Cities are always shifting and in transition, and the smallest components have the greatest implications. I call it “from the doorknob to the democracy.”