H.O.R.T.U.S. (Hydro Organism Responsive to Urban Stimuli)

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Bring me home, please

If you're in London you might want to swing by the Architectural Association School and check out H.O.R.T.U.S. (which stands for Hydro Organism Responsive to Urban Stimuli.) To be honest i'm not sure what to think about this one but it's been a slow week art-wise for me so i'll throw the information in this post in the hope that it will help me make up my mind about the project.

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ecoLogicStudio, H.O.R.T.U.S. installation at AA. Photo: Sue Barr

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ecoLogicStudio, H.O.R.T.U.S. installation at AA. Photo: Sue Barr

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ecoLogicStudio, H.O.R.T.U.S. installation at AA. Photo: Sue Barr

With HORTUS, the architects from ecoLogicStudio are inviting the public to become cyber-gardeners and "invent new protocols of urban biogardening."

There's a bright green carpet on the floor and hundreds of intravenous-style bags are suspended above our heads. The bags are in fact photo-bioreactors and they form a 'greenhouse' that hosts nine different species of algae, from chlorella to algae found in London's canals. Visitors can blow into flexible plastic tubes, fostering the growth of the algae with their carbon dioxide and activating the oxygen production.

The plastic bags carry a QR code. You hold up your smartphone, scan the code and are directed to a page of information about the algae you've just 'fed' with your breath. Large containers are distributed between the algae bags, they host bioluminescent bacteria that automatically fed through a pump with air from the oxygen released.

The greenhouse cohabits with a virtual garden that feeds on visitors' scans and tweets about the exhibition. Their 'interaction' with the algae shape a garden rendered in real time on a screen.

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ecoLogicStudio, H.O.R.T.U.S. installation at AA. Photo: Sue Barr

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ecoLogicStudio, H.O.R.T.U.S. installation at AA. Photo: Sue Barr

I wasn't much impressed with the QR codes and the virtual garden created by tweets but it turns out that the project is much more than just another demonstration of how 'nature meets buildings meet the virtual.' H.O.R.T.U.S. is one of the manifestations of ecoLogicStudio's exploration into the role that algae might play in our future life: to produce nonpolluting hydrogen-based energy, to filter water or take a more important role in our alimentation.

The architects recently had the opportunity to try and test their idea on a larger scale in Simrishamn in Sweden. The Swedish Municipality is in need of new urban ideas to help boost its economy: the fishing industry is declining and young people are leaving the area.

ecoLogicStudio came up with an Regional Algae Farm plan that involves a series of algae-related urban activities and architectural prototypes.

H.O.R.T.U.S. enables the public to engage directly and simply with ideas and systems that might form a larger part of our life in years to come.

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