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H.O.R.T.U.S.: BioCities / algae / architecture / cyber-Gardens / oxygen / urban design / waterJanuary 13, 2012

"If we look at the earth as a territory devoted to life it would appear as an enclosed space, delimited by the boundaries of living systems [the biosphere]. In other words it would appear as a garden"
Clement, Gilles

the etymology of the word garden comes from the German Garten, whose original meaning is enclosed or bounded space, in Latin “HORTUS conclusus”.

H.O.R.T.U.S, a new exhibition from ecoLogicStudio designed for the AA Front Members Room, engages the notions of urban renewable energy and agriculture through a new gardening prototype; the proto-garden host micro and macro-algal organisms as well as bioluminescent bacteria; fitted with ambient light sensing technologies and a custom designed virtual interface, H.O.R.T.U.S stimulates the emergence of novel material practices and related spatial narratives.

Flows of Energy [light radiation], Matter[biomass, CO2] and Information [images, tweets, stats] are triggered during the 4 weeks long growing period, inducing multiple mechanisms of self-regulation and evolving novel forms of self-organisation.
H.O.R.T.U.S proposes an experimental “hands on” engagement with these notions, illustrating their potential applicability to the masterplanning of large regional landscapes and the retro-fitting of industrial and rural architectural types, as exemplified in the project “Regional Algae Farm”developed by ecoLogicStudio for the Swedish region of Osterlen.

Visitors, AA students and staff are invited to engage daily with H.O.R.T.U.S inventing new protocols of urban bio-gardening; the biologic diversity within H.O.R.T.U.S is provided by lakes and ponds within Central London; as algal organisms require CO2 to grow visitors are invited to contribute by blowing air inside the various containers [photo-bioreactors] as well as adjust their nutrients’ content; oxygen is released as a result, feeding the other organisms in the “briccole” [bioluminescent bacteria] and in the room.
Information flowing daily through H.O.R.T.U.S feeds its emergent virtual garden, accessible via smart phones; its virtual plots are nurtured by the flow of observations posted by each visitor, locally and globally, by lighting levels data streams and by human interaction in real-time. Such virtual organism offers the opportunity for capturing and sedimenting information and cultivation practices, enriching the material experience of the visitor turned urban “cyber-gardener”.

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