London’s ecoLogicStudio has designed a prototype of its urban algae canopy. It is the “world’s first bio-digital canopy that integrates micro-algal cultures and real time digital cultivation protocols on a unique architectural system” with flows of water and energy regulated by weather patterns and visitor usage.

This is a ‘bio-digital’ structure that combines biology with technology. In the structure there is fluid filled with micro-algae organisms that are pumped around a transparent canopy which provides shade to the space underneath the canopy. It also produces energy in the form of biomass and produces a large amount of oxygen. An additional feature is that the structure can respond to the presence of visitors by producing interesting visual effects.
In the presence of sunlight the micro-algae will photosynthesise naturally and grow in numbers and volume which turns the almost transparent fluid into a deeper shade of green to provide shade to anyone standing underneath the structure. This means that the structure is weather=pattern dependent and will produce more in the presence of high levels of sunlight.
The interactive parts works by electro valves in the structure being triggered by the presence of someone walking into each different area of the canopy. The valves alter the speed at which the fluid flows through the canopy creating different colour shades and effects.
The prototype will hopefully be scaled up to a larger installation that will be able to provide the same amount of oxygen as four hectares of woodland and also produce 150kg of biomass.
Using micro-algae colonies rather than relying on woodland photosynthesis also results in a massive reduction in the amount of CO2 produced which benefits the atmosphere.
Integrating organic systems with artificial ones opens up possibilities for everything from temperature control to power generation methods using the advantages of both natural and digital parts. There are even designs being put forward for smog-eating algae street lamps among many other fascinating ideas.
As ecoLogicStudio puts it: “We believe that it is now time to overcome the segregation between technology and nature typical of the mechanical age, to embrace a systemic understanding of architecture. In this prototype the boundaries between the material, spatial and technological dimensions have been carefully articulated to achieve efficiency, resilience and beauty.”
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