Mr Richard Beckett
The Bartlett School of Architecture
Faculty of the Built Environment
- Joined UCL
- 1st Aug 2011
Probiotic Design: Probiotic design is concerned with human-microbe relationships in the built environment. It explores the ecological importance of microbial diversity and their ability to configure healthy environments and bodies through effects on immunoregulatory function. In the absence of these regulatory entanglements, bodies and environments are being tipped into dysfunctional states. Dysbiotic urban populations are marked by missing microbes as a result of antibiotic mentalities dominating how we plan and shape our cities.
The symbiotic relationship between humans and microbes forms the basis of these experimental approaches that seek to re-deploy environmental microbial communities in indoor environments. These approaches aim to secure the desired ecological functions of diverse environmental microbes through built interventions that create ecological conditions and biological niches that support their presence and augment their flourishing. This approach enrols the contemporary scientific figure of the human as a holobiont to underpin these probiotic design practices that recalibrate human-microbe entanglements in buildings.
Probiotic design differentiates between pathogenic and benign microbes but also considers that microbes may not be inherently good or bad, instead it understands that such distinctions may be configurable by the relationship between bodies and their environmental context. In this way probiotic design does not fully reject antibiotic approaches, instead it recalibrates them with approaches that limit harmful microbial exposures but crucially allow for and permit other benign exposures.
SYN.DE.BIO (co-edited with Marcos Cruz) is a 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.
Novel Digital Fabrication Techniques: Exploration and production of design projects using novel additive layer manufacturing, and 7 axis robotic manufacturing. Ranging in scale from textiles to be worn on the body, to architectural facades this work aims to disrupt the notion of 3D printing as a prototype or model scale activity. A body of work entitled digital stone has explored digital fabrication of stones and marbles within the context of digital architecture applied to traditional masonry concepts of blockwork, tiles, cladding or facings.
i. Digital Materiality. Emerging additive layer systems now afford the ability to design below the macroscopic scale. This work has focused on the design of new, hybrid materials in which every element of their properties can be prescribed at the design concept. This is towards a new architecture which encompasses a scalar hierarchy of matter involving the concurrent design at a range of scales.
ii. Design of materials for additive manufacturing including 3D printed Ceramics (patent pending) and 3D printed cements.
iii. Design of bioreceptive materials for microbiological colonisation. Laboratory based physical and chemical manipulation of materials to achieve key physical properties at the inter-facial layer between material and environment.
- University College London
- Other higher degree, Master of Architecture | 2011
- University of Westminster
- First Degree, Bachelor of Architecture | 2008
Richard is an Associate Professor in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture. He is Director of RC7 on the BPro Architectural Design master’s programme and leads Studio 3 on the Landscape Architecture course. His research is focused on design operating at the intersection of architecture and microbial ecologies in buildings and cities. His research on Probiotic Design won the RIBA Presidents Research Award in 2021. He has built numerous projects and has been exhibited internationally including Archilab – Naturalising Architecture, The Pompidou Centre and Nature – Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
He is currently Co-PI on a 3-year EPSRC project ENG-EPSRC EFRI ELiS: Developing probiotic interventions to reduce the emergence and persistence of pathogens in built environments, and recently led the AHRC funded project NOTBAD, exploring a novel approach towards preventing the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the built environment by adding beneficial microbes to the indoor microbiome.
Richard initially studied physiology and biochemistry before going to work in R&D for Glaxosmithkline as a physical properties scientist. He then went on to study architecture, obtaining his undergraduate degrees from the University of Westminster and a Master's degree in Architectural Design from UCL at the Bartlett School of Architecture.
His investigations into architecture have remained cross-disciplinary focusing on the contemporary discussion on digital architecture and fabrication alongside the impact of biotechnology on Architecture and more specifically, investigations into the use of living or semi-living materials in our built environment. This background acquires him with a cutting-edge expertise in the field of computational data production, 3D printing and digital manufacturing as a material and technical innovator.
He has lectured and given workshops internationally and has been an invited critic at various UK universities. His work is internationally exhibited and published. Outside of the school, he is co-editor and organiser of Syn.de.Bio, an online forum to disseminate bio-digital work that is emerging in the crossroad of design, biology and engineering.