The use of microorganisms to improve the properties of ground materials in the Earth subsurface as well as construction materials is an emerging technology. Research groups at different institutions around the world are active within the field of synthetic biology and nanotechnology. However, remarkably few of them focus on architectural applications.
The pavilion on display here, designed for a client in China that owns a desert, is based on a material concept at the intersection of architecture and
biology. The blocks of (initially loose) sand are solidified by the microbial action of Bacillus pasteurii, a bacterium with the fascinating property of being able to produce calcite, nature’s own cement, when fed with water and nutrients.
The calcite fill in the voids between the individual grains of sand, and essentially glue the elements to each other. The process is quick: initial gelling happens within minutes, and the entire cycle from bacterial sludge to solid blocks takes a few weeks.