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BIO-UDtunis: BioCities / algae / bio-computation / energy / food / landscape / urban design / waterSeptember 29, 2013

This BIO-UD: Research Cluster in Bio-Urban Design project was conducted in 2012/13 in Tunisia, investigating a distributed form of agri-urbanisms based on the production of renewable nergy and resources like water, food and waste recycling

directed by

ecoLogicStudio / Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto


The dissolution of the dichotomy ‘artifice vs. nature’ opens new possibilities in the conception of the city from a non-anthropocentric perspective.

Urban design can then be conceived as the breeding of relationships between industrial, agricultural, biological and social systems. Working on the emergent notion of ‘agri-urbanity’, this research cluster establishes a link between the instant/immaterial qualities of contemporary urbanism and the slow/material qualities that are the inextricable sign of the rural condition and its life cycles. ENERGY IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, THE CASE OF TUNISIA

The studio begins with an examination of Tunis as an extended terrain for new practices of eco-social experimentation, on a micro social level and larger institutional scale.  Four test beds have been identified as examples of the territorial and conflictual dimension of contemporary urbanism: Bizerte, site of the largest reservoir of drinking water in Tunisia, the Tunis South Lake, site of a large and unregulated landfill, Sidi Bouzid, where most of Tunisian food is grown and Tozeur, site of the future large scale DESERTEC solar energy farm.

An initial scanning via indexical maps did produce sets of operational fields, embryonic design contexts for the conception of urban prototypes triggering and framing novel practices of farming energy and contributing to the growth of new self-sufficient city models. 

Each new urban prototype synthesizes tectonic and material organization from the introduction of specific bio-technologies into the test sites, connecting urban form to the creation of an independent and robust supply chain for food, energy, water and the transformation of waste.

The cluster adopts bio-inspired algorithmic design methods to draw terrains of negotiation across strategic and tactical forms of intervention; algorithmic coding enables the testing of design intentions across a fluid eco-social terrain, generating a multiplicity of responses and effects across scales and regimes [from the molecular to the territorial].  Our research this year focused on the advanced urban design application of 4 codes: the Diffusion Limited Aggregation, deployed to test urban accretions in the Chott el Jerid Lake, The Reaction Diffusion, to breed a bio-digestive landscape in the South Lake of Tunis, The Ants Foraging Behavior Model, to develop an Edible Landscape in Sidi Bouzid and an Agent Based Ground Erosion model to evolve an artificial wetland terrain around Lake Ichkeul. 

Working in small research teams students did identify partners that were invited to support a trans-disciplinary development of the design scenarios. Selected among scientists, sociologists, agronomists and engineers, key supporters were the leading industry consortium TuNur, building energy farms in Tunisia, the Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences (DeFENS) - University of Milan and the Department of Geography - UCL.



Each research team selected a pilot site located throughout Tunisia, located in areas of conflict between the increasing need for resources of a growing city [Tunis] and an urbanizing nation like Tunisia vs. the reduced capacity of the anthropized landscape to supply them. These case studies were treated as scenarios to design 4 new cities or models of urbanization.

-The Artificial Wetland City is located around Lake Ichkeul, one of the world's three most important birds sanctuaries. Protected Unesco site, the lake's conditions have deteriorated due to increasing salinity and a sharp reduction in the numbers of migratory birds. Most of the missing fresh WATER is pumped 400km to feed Tunis and 3 other main cities. The artificial Wetland model proposes to divert fresh water from the pipeline back to an artificial inhabited ground, where wetland habitat can be restored alongside agricultural, research and touristic activities. This new urban belt is organized around the lake to promote a new kind of active eco-urban conservation protocol.

-The Activated Living Drosscape Project is located in South Lake of Tunis, now considered the most eutrophicated lagoon on the Tunisian coast. Its decay resulted from nutritious WASTE discharged by the jeans-washing factories, food-producing industries, and others since the 1970s. The project proposes a new model of bio-technological landscape devoted to the bio-digestion of industrial and residential waste by means of algal microorganisms; urban "green" becomes here a biological machine of transformation whereby nutrients and raw material is produced right in the heart of the city.

-The Edible Landscape augments the city of Sidi Bouzid, located in central Tunisia, one of the main agricultural hubs of the country.  Climatic change, rising price of FOOD and reliance on global imports of wheat is placing great pressures on farmers to produce. Edible Landscape deploys lightweight and low-tech farming kits to create a new self-organizing infrastructure able to augment productivity and introduce new food streams; the infrastructure is controlled by a robust and adaptive urban code that provides constant reconfiguration in response to changing environmental stimuli, offering microclimatic control, bio-energy production and novel trading opportunities.

-The Renewable Energy Network Oasis is a new model of power exporting Oasis city,  located in the Chott el Jerid lake, near Tozeur. The area is site for the development of a large scale solar concentrator plant, part of the TuNur initiative. The project proposes to substitute the centralized plant with a diffuse form of renewable energy harvesting, based on a network of nomadic hubs powered by multiple forms energy available in the lake, including solar, wind, geothermal and biological [Bacteria]. The robust infrastructure will host 30.000 inhabitants including local Bedouins, traditional inhabitants of these extreme environments, and reload the Oasis as a radical model of bio-technological urbanization.

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