Is biologically based architecture the next big thing? Architect Mitchell Joachim thinks so. He proffers radical ways to rethink the science of structures.
What are the most pressing issues in housing today?
Green technology has to be more affordable. We have to find systems that will leapfrog previous ones and are actually cheaper at the point of purchase. Moreover, we have to accept that we can’t change the American value system. Everyone wants to own property and have a sovereign or autonomous lifestyle. We have to react by innovating.
Whose responsibility is it to do so?
I’d put the burden on designers. We shouldn’t rely on politicians or bankers or developers. We should be educating designers in policy, economics, and building methods as well ways to improve space, materials, and the science of construction.
What is your vision for the house of the future?
Houses have to get smarter. You should know where your power is going and how you’re using it. In general, houses don’t pull information and relay it in a way that’s easily understood. All citizens should have access to that type of information.
Your nonprofit Terreform ONE is known for its radical design propositions. What are you working on now?
With the In Vitro Meat Habitat, we’re experimenting with lab-created artificial tissue to construct truly organic, living architecture. When architects talk about “organic” architecture, it usually just mimics organic systems or is organic on an aesthetic or phenomenological level. We’re working with biological systems such as fungi, grafted plants, and organisms that can clean up polluted soils to solve design problems. Biotechnology is one of the next steps. It’s undiscovered territory. The basic building blocks of today’s structures are made by machines. What if structures could be biofabricated from cells, nature’s first building blocks? I call it “form follows biology.”
Will people eventually live in homes made from tissue?
I think it’s possible. There’s always the Buckminster Fuller routine: the promissory note that living in some kind of tetrahedral shape will save the world. To me, that’s highly deterministic. There’s never going to be a one-off solution. However, you do need an extreme version so that you change the norm.