We’ve seen the future of architecture and design, and it’s at the intersection of biology, computing, and engineering.

While many architects these days put up buildings loaded with energy-saving features and attractive, sustainable design, one company is taking its approach to being green to another level: growing fully biodegradable building materials.

Known as The Living,1 the small, New York-based architecture firm has pioneered mixing biological technologies with hard-core computing and engineering. This summer, it gained notoriety in design circles with Hy-Fi, a 40-foot-tall temporary outdoor building, made from 10,000 organic bricks, that was showcased at Manhattan’s prestigious MoMA PS1 contemporary art museum.

The Living is aiming to alter the notion of what an architecture firm is, and how its projects interact with the environments in which it builds. One of its driving goals is upending one of the construction industry’s biggest black marks — being the source of 40 percent of the waste in landfills.


The Living itself has benefitted from a new attitude in cities like New York that suffered through the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Sandy, which caused significant damage and exposed the weakness of some older designs.

“There’s a recognition that it would be helpful and have a bottom-line impact,” Benjamin said, “to design with resiliency, to design systems that can adapt to radically changing conditions. To design cities and shorelines that can deal with unpredictable forces.”

More Sandy-like disasters are inevitable, and Benjamin said he’s seeing more and more public officials — and clients — willing to take a chance on new ideas. Like using organic building materials and relying on the underlying computer modeling and engineering that makes them strong enough to hold up a 40-foot-tall structure.

To Marble, it all makes sense, especially with an innovative risk-taker like Benjamin “getting under the hood” inside Autodesk.

And Marble thinks that what The Living is trying out now could well be commonplace — in 10 to 15 years.

“They take a really radical approach to architecture,” he said. “They try to understand materials, processes, and even the social dynamics of architecture, as a relational set of factors. Almost an ecological system.”

  • 1. http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/