Buildings built by bacteria


Over at Fast Company, our pal Chris Arkenberg wrote about how advances in synthetic biology and biomimicry could someday transform how we build our built environments:

Innovations emerging across the disciplines of additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions. Construction itself may be handled by bacterial printers and swarms of mechanical assemblers.

Tools like Project Cyborg make possible a deeper exploration of biomimicry through the precise manipulation of matter. David Benjamin and his Columbia Living Architecture Lab explore ways to integrate biology into architecture. Their recent work investigates bacterial manufacturing--the genetic modification of bacteria to create durable materials. Envisioning a future where bacterial colonies are designed to print novel materials at scale, they see buildings wrapped in seamless, responsive, bio-electronic envelopes.

"Cities Of The Future, Built By Drones, Bacteria, And 3-D Printers"


    1. I was going to say, authors such as Slonczewski have been writing about bio/nano biotechture and von Neumann vanguards for literally thirty or forty years. Bruce Sterling even covered it in a non-fiction book back in ’02. Peter F. Hamilton has a whole frikin’ Tolkien-sized space opera about it. When I wrote some stories with comparable settings, I knew full well I was ripping off a grand old SF trope.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Arkenberg is charting the progress toward realizing such technologies and bringing it to the attention of the wider public, but it’s in no way shape or form even remotely new, and that article makes nary a mention that fabulists, futurists and technologists have all been chipping away at that mine face for the better part of half a century.

      1. Larry Niven came up with “architectural coral” to build houses out of on colony planets. I used to think that grow-your-own-house was one of those futuristic ideas that could be realized fairly soon. But unfortunately it is sitting somewhere with my flying car.

  1. I think the biggest problem with this is going to be the idea of deliberately contaminating an alien world with bacteria. Sure, we’ve done it a teensy bit already with our probes for all the care we’ve taken to sterilize them.

    Personally, I’m in favor of terraforming all the planets we can, but only once we’ve studied; only slowly and carefully, making sure that our studies don’t contaminate each other.

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