The brain child of architectural designer Jacob Douenias and Industrial designer Ethan Frier, the ‘Living Things’ art installation in Pittsburgh contains furniture of a possible and not too distant future where the symbiosis between human beings and microorganisms are on display in the built environment.
In this creative display, spirulina micro-algae is cultivated in custom glass bioreactors designed as household furnishings. In the hands of architects the unique liquid structure transforms into a living building material which can be integrated symbiotically into the architectural environment. The living algae bioreactors recycle light, heat, and carbon dioxide from the surrounding environment feeding the micro-algae inhabitants.
Individual Spirulina filaments which are just barely visible to the naked eye can be seen mixing inside the glass vessels. Once filtered, the algae can be dried from a viscous paste into a fine, green powder which is over 60% protein by weight.
The designer say the rich green biomass can be consumed as sustenance, or converted to biofuel, but we think the spirulina could also be used to feed to you reef tank and the converted biofuel could in theory be used to ‘power’ your reef.
This installation reveals the helpful qualities of the highly beneficial micro-algae and challenges visitors to consider what the future of the domestic environment may become in the context of the precarious agricultural and energy needs of a ballooning population.
The custom made glass bioreactor function as light and heat elements for the human occupant while high funtioning photobioreactors provide heat, light, agitation, air supply, nutrient and waste control to the living algae inside. The entire system is connected through ½ mile of wiring and plumbing, creating a hybrid between a scientific workstation and a media cabinet.
At this workstation each of the nine vessel’s life support systems can be adjusted individually. The 3D printed knobs embedded in the surface workstation control eighteen valves which allow for the harvesting of Spirulina when the culture becomes dense enough, and the supply of fresh liquid media to each vessel. Inside the cabinet the pumps, tubing, manifolds, LED drivers, air pumps, heater connections and filters which comprise the heart of the life support system.
Living Things is now installed at the Mattress Factory Museum of Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until March 27, 2016