RESEARCH / ABOUT
Richard Beckett is a Lecturer in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. His research area focuses on BioAugmented Design – a body of ongoing research that explores new paradigms for architecture through a multidisciplinary approach utilising design, computation, microbiology and material science methodologies.
This research is furthered through international collaborations with designers and scientists and explored through various platforms including funded research, PhD research, and teaching. The work questions what architecture should be in the age of the Anthropocene and considers how buildings and cities – including their design, materials and construction, can be better integrated as a productive part of the biosphere. In opposition to the dead and inert approaches of our current urban fabric, it explores at the fundamental level how to design for and amalgamate living matter in to buildings as an approach to more sustainable, resilient and healthy strategies for the built environment. Operating in both the design studio and in the laboratory, a multitude of techniques are employed including Computational Design, Novel Fabrication Methods alongside Material Property Testing, Experimental Microbiology, DNA Sequencing and Environmental Monitoring. This research is applied to areas including:
- Greening Cities
- Healthy Buildings
- Biodesign / Biofabrication
- Digital Fabrication / Robotics
The Indoor Microbiome
Architectural Design plays a role in the types of microbes that exist in our buildings. As we learn more about “good” bacteria and the role they play towards our health and wellbeing, it is important to design buildings that not only decrease our exposure to pathogens, but also that can increase our exposure to beneficial microbial diversity. One way to do this is to design spaces, materials and interventions that can increase the levels of environmental microbes in our indoor spaces.
NOTBAD: Novel approach to reducing the spread of antimicrobial resistance in the built environment. (Funded by the AHRC)
Richard Beckett (PI), Dr Sean Nair (Co-I), Carolina Ramirez-Figuroa, Mehmet Davrandi
The medical community understands that not all microbes are bad and that certain microbes play a beneficial role within the body in relation to our health and immune development. It is evident that overprescribing antibiotics can lead to the killing of benign and/or beneficial microbes within the body removing competition and thereby allowing antimicrobial resistant microbes to proliferate or colonise the body.
Analogically, these principles are true of microbes within buildings – the so called built environment microbiome. However, to date, a similar shift in opinion has not occurred amongst architects and designers where a preference for cleanliness still drives a ‘kill-all’ mentality towards the presence of microbes in buildings. This project is investigating an alternative, pro-microbial design paradigm for a living architecture that purposely grows benign bacteria within the building walls and surfaces that serve to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistant pathogens via mechanisms of bacterial competition.
BioDesign / Biofabrication
The emergence of contemporary design approaches that cross-fertilise biology with art, architecture and design, particularly those that look to incorporate living organisms in to materials (growing materials; digital biofabrication;) have to date been primarily driven by notions of material sustainability and climatic discourse. Alongside these important areas, there is a potential for such design approaches to play a role in the less explored arena of building and urban resilience. Designing with living or semi-living materials explores the potential for “animate buildings” that have the potential to adapt to future challenges: materials that can sense and react without computers, buildings that can detect damage, and heal themselves after flooding or a storm and buildings that can self assemble, and de-assemble according to requirements.
With Marcos Cruz and Javier Ruiz
In a time of unprecedented urban development there is today an urgency to find new ways to improve the environmental quality of our cities. Bioreceptive Design explores the emergence of a new bio-digital, material phenomenon that is changing the environmental performativity of architecture. Moving beyond nature-inspired to nature-integrated design, Bioreceptive Design defines a paradigm shift from the notion of skin, one of the most used metaphors in contemporary architecture, to that of an architectural bark, offering a different interface for material-tectonic-environmental negotiations to take place between nature and architecture. Unlike current approaches to bolt-on vertical greening systems, the research explores biocolonisation of buildings and infrastructures, whereby diverse microbial communities interact with the material substrate in which nature becomes embedded within the architectural fabric.
A discussion on aesthetics and the unpredictable dimension of nature and growth challenges our traditional preference for “cleanliness” in favour of more a contemporary understanding of natural and thus ‘impure’ aesthetics, which includes more three-dimensional, complex and figurative patterns.
Bioreceptivity is a term defined by Olivier Guillitte in 1995. It forms the basis of a bottom up approach design methodology centered upon a series of inherent material conditions, specific environmental factors and species dependent deviations. Digital design, simulation and fabrication methods reveal a time-based, evolving condition as a new tool for sustainable design. Bioreceptive Design explores projects in which material and environmental conditions are assessed at various scales simultaneously. It uses complex self generative computational tools to reveal a parameter-driven, evolutionary design process turned into 1:1 building prototypes that define new parameters of a bio-digital materiality. Bioreceptive Design utilises interdisciplinary work methods, requiring knowledge in high-end computation, manufacturing, design engineering, along with lab protocols and biology.
Computational Seeding of Bioreceptive Materials
Prof Marcos Cruz (PI), Richard Beckett, Dr Sandra Manso, Dr Chris Leung, Bill Watts (Funded by EPSRC)
The research focuses on developing a new type of bioreceptive façade panels for the built environment. Using a novel type of bioreceptive concrete and environmentally driven design, the panels aim to promote micro-organic growth directly on building façades and infrastructure walls.
with Marcos Cruz
SYN.DE.BIO is an online forum that disseminates bio-digital work in the emerging crossroad of design, biology and engineering. It promotes a new network of designers, artists and scientists who employ novel design methods and innovative fabrication techniques to explore biological material in the built environment. Advances in the field of synthetic biology, biotechnology, molecular engineering and material sciences, as well as new modes of production and simulation in architecture, product and textile design, are leading towards an increasing complex approach to design. The result is a new sense of materiality, new hybrid technologies and unprecedented living forms.