Living buildings: Towards sustainable cities


Dr Rachel Armstrong is a TEDGlobal Fellow, writer, multimedia producer, arts collaborator and medically qualified doctor, specializing in non-Darwinian techniques of evolution and the challenges of the extra-terrestrial environment. She regards the discipline of architecture as holding a unique place in the cultural imagination being simultaneously iconic and personal, and which offers an ideal forum to engage with and re-imagine our experience of the world, so that we can reinvent our role within it.

She is a Teaching Fellow at the Bartlett and member of Professor Neil Spiller’s AVATAR Research Group, developing a new architectural methodology called Systems Architecture, which is the study of complexity within the discipline of the built environment that enables the convergence of the nano-bio-info-cogno technologies and extends from the macro-scale flow of information to the micro-scale organization of building materials.

She has worked as a technical tutor at the Bartlett School of Architecture with students exploring the connections between biology, medicine and architecture. She was technical advisor to international performance artists such as Orlan and Stelarc on projects that explored the possibilities and implications of extreme anatomical and biotechnical modification and is the author and producer of a large range of multimedia projects and digital medical programmes ranging from printed literature to virtual reality and the Internet.

Dr. Armstrong’s extensive interdisciplinary practice engages with a fundamental driving principle – the fundamental creativity of science. Her work uses all manner of media to engage audiences and bring them into contact with the latest advances in science and their real potential through the inventive applications of technology, to address some of the biggest problems facing the world today.

Her first Science-Fiction novel ‘The Gray’s Anatomy’ was published in 2001 by Serpent’s Tail. She was also an editor of an Art & Design Issue entitled ‘Sci-Fi Aesthetics’, released in 1997 by Wiley-Academy, and ‘Space Architecture’ for Architectural Design in 2001. She has published extensively on post-human evolution and alien phenomena, working at the intersection of art, science and technology.

About this lecture:

Dr Armstrong will discuss the potential of 'metabolic materials' that possess some of the properties of living systems. By generating such materials it is hoped that our cities will be able to replace the energy they draw from the environment, respond to the needs of their populations and eventually become regarded as 'alive' in the same way we think about parks or gardens. Metabolic materials could become a key sustainable technology with the potential to transform the world's urban environments.

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