An Urban Algae Curtain that Captures CO2
London-based architectural and urban design firm ecoLogicStudio led by Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, unveiled Photo.Synth.Etica, a large-scale installation which aims to accelerate solutions to global climate change.
Conceived as an “urban curtain”, Photo.Synth.Etica, conceived in partnership with Climate-KIC, EU’s most prominent climate innovation initiative, captures CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in real-time: approximately one kilo of CO2 per day, equivalent to that of 20 large trees.
Composed of 16, 2 x 7-meter modules, the unique curtain prototype envelopes the first and second floor of the main façade of the Printworks building at Dublin Castle. Each module functions as a photobioreactor, a digitally designed and custom-made bioplastic container that utilizes daylight to feed the living micro-algal cultures and releases luminescent shades at night.
Unfiltered urban air is introduced at the bottom of the Photo.Synth.Etica façade and, while air bubbles naturally rise through the watery medium within the bioplastic photobioreactors, they come into contact with voracious microbes. CO2 molecules and air pollutants are captured and stored by the algae, and grow into biomass. This can be harvested and employed in the production of bioplastic raw material that constitutes the main building material of the photobioreactors. To culminate the process, freshly photosynthesized oxygen is released at the top of each façade unit of Photo.Synth.Etica, and out into the urban microclimate.
Thanks to their serpentine design, the modules optimize the carbon sequestration process and the full curtain pattern is reminiscent of a large trading data chart that embodies Climate-KIC’s commitment to promoting new models to solve the global climate crisis.
Moreover, the Photo.Synth.Etica project seeks to symbolically embody parallelism between the monetary carbon trading market and the transactions carried out by the molecules,as ecoLogicStudio’s founders say: “The message is one of spatial convergence and connectivity between the financial marketplace of cyberspace and the relative organic molecular transactions in the biosphere”.
The innovative shading system could be integrated into existing and newly designed buildings. Smart cities, smart homes, autonomous vehicles, robotic factories, etc. dominate the current panorama of popular futuristic scenarios, but they all desperately need spatial and architectural re-framing to engender beneficial societal transitions.
The project takes its name from the Photosynthetica consortium (www.photosynthetica.co.uk) directed by ecoLogicStudio in partnership with Urban Morphogenesis Lab – UCL and Synthetic Landscapes Lab – University of Innsbruck.
Forthcoming projects by ecoLogicStudio include a photosynthetic sculpture for the Centre Pompidou (Paris), a research project involving the use of bio-gel instead of water as the algae medium, 3D printing techniques to prototype architectural photobioreactors, and the design of a façade system for a new museum of microbes in Innsbruck (Austria).
Design team: Konstantinos Alexopoulos, Nico Aulitzky, Shlok Soni, Robert Staples, Chrysi Vrantsi, Chia Wei Yang
Structural Engineering: Manja van de Worp (Nous Engineering, USA)
Bioplastic Supply and Manufacturing Support: James Woollard (Polythene, UK)
Microalgae Cultures Supply: Dr. Fiona Moejes (Bantry Marine Research Station, Ireland)