The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bio-ID Student Exhibits at Lisbon Architecture Triennale

19 October 2022

Mac Van Dam is exhibiting a project developed within the Master's programme at the forum, which gathers every three years to debate, discuss and disseminate architecture across geographic and disciplinary boundaries.

Image: Vertical Grounds, Lisbon Architecture Triennale

This year’s Lisbon Architecture Triennale, titled ‘Terra’, explores how new paradigms are changing ways of place-making in a globalised planet. Terra addresses how climate changes and challenges, pressure on resources, and socioeconomic and environmental inequities are all profoundly intertwined. The curators propose that understanding these complex situations requires a paradigm shift from a linear growth model (“cities as machines”) to a circular evolutionary model (“cities as organisms”).

Mac’s project is exhibited as part of Visionaries, one of four exhibitions at the Triennale. Curated by Anastassia Smirnova with SVESMI, Visionaries takes place at culture/arts foundation and gallery space Culturgest. 'Vertical Grounds’ was developed to explore ecological alternatives to traditional vegetative wall systems. Mac developed the project during his second year studying Bio-Integrated Design MArch/MSc. His project was submitted along with two other projects from the programme, and selected to exhibit from among hundreds of applications from around the world.

As well as being exhibited at the festival, his project is a finalist in the Millennium bcp Universities Award Competition, which is part of the Triennale.

Vertical Grounds

Mac Van Dam, Bio-Integrated Design MArch, Year 2

Questioning the contribution of “green walls” in contemporary building practice, Vertical Grounds is a design-led research project searching for ecological alternatives to traditional vegetative wall systems. Using cork and its extracted molecule, suberin, Vertical Grounds proposes a plant-based hydroponic scaffold which responds both to the needs of its hosted plants and the existing architecture.

It abides by the principles of a green wall manifesto:

  • The green wall must focus on the root, nurturing its growth and providing a healthy, abundant space for roots to grow.

  • The materiality and supply chains of the scaffold need to be rethought as most components are inorganic plastics, separate from the plant and the intentions of the design.

  • Green walls lack an expressive architectural language and must build a meaningful symbiosis with the architecture they cover. These systems must respond to diverse architectural conditions instead of depending on specific conditions for their deployment.

Mac’s project was sponsored by Portuguese company Amorim, which leads the world in cork manufacture. His work is on display throughout the Triennial, which runs until 05 December. The project was also exhibited as part of The Bartlett B-Pro Show this month.

Mac was tutored on Bio-Integrated Design MArch by Andreas Körner, Kostas Grigoriadis and Annete Salmane, and supervised by Marcos Cruz and Brenda Parker. 

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