The Urban Algae Canopy by ecoLogic Studio is a piece of bio-digital architecture that combines micro-algal cultures and real time digital cultivation protocols. To be displayed at Expo Milano 2015, the structure is able to control the flow of energy, water and carbon dioxide based on weather patterns, visitor’s movements, and other environmental variables. It’s the first of its kind in the world, and once fully completed, the canopy will be able to produce the oxygen equivalent of four hectares of woodland, along with nearly 330 pounds of biomass per day.

Forming part of the Future Food District project curated by Carlo Ratti Associati, the Urban Algae Canopy marks the culmination of six years worth of research. A custom designed ETFE claddingsystem, which consists of three layers and was designed with the help of Taiyo Europe, enhances the already exceptional properties of the microalgae organisms. Special CNC welding technology, on the other hand, enabled ecoLogicStudio to alter the canopy’s morphology and control the dynamic behavior of the water that courses through the structure to act as a medium for the living organisms.

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This intersection between technology and biology means that when the sun shines more intensively, the algae would photosynthesise and grow, which in turn reduces the transparency of the canopy and provides more shade. With mico-algae as the foundation of the canopy, it is inherently responsive, which means visitors will be able to influence the building’s behavior in real-time. At any given time, the transparency, color and shading potential of the canopy will be the product of the interrelationships between climate, micro-algae, visitors and digital control systems.

“It is now time to overcome the segregation between technology and nature typical of the mechanical age, to embrace a systemic understanding of architecture,” concludes Claudia Pasquero of ecoLogicStudio. “In this prototype the boundaries between the material, spatial and technological dimensions have been carefully articulated to achieve efficiency, resilience and beauty.”