A manifesto for protocell architecture: against biological formalism

1. We want to change the world with almost nothing.

It is possible to generate complex materials and architectures through
harnessing the fundamental energetics of matter. In other words, doing
more with less.

2. What we call protocell architecture is, at root, a piece of Dadaist and
Surrealist research, in which all the lofty questions have become

The novel self-assembling material systems that arise from protocell
architectural practice make no reference to, nor attempt to mimic
bio-logic. As such, protocell architecture is an alien to the natural
world, yet speaks the same fundamental languages of chemistry and physics.
The results of these conversations and interactions constitute a parallel
biology and second biogenesis whose aesthetics are described by Surrealist

3. Architecture is dead, long live architecture.

Protocells constitute a disruptive technology for architectural practice
since they are capable of reaching a transition point when evolution
emerges within the system, the outcome of which is unpredictable and
therefore offer novel and surprising ways of constructing architecture
that will succeed and replace conventional technologies.

4. Protocell architecture swallows contrast and all contradictions
including the grotesquery and illogicality of life.

Protocell technology is at the beginning of an evolutionary pathway that
is connected to and dependent on the environmental conditions around it.
The responsiveness of protocells to stimuli, means they can be regarded as
computing units. Consequently, protocells do not seek to generate
idealized architectural forms but reflect and interpret the full spectrum
of the processes they encounter in the real world.

5. What is generally termed life is really a frothy nothing that merely

Protocell technology offers an opportunity for architects to engage with
the evolutionary process itself. Unlike natural biological systems that
evolve randomly according to Darwinian evolution, protocell technology
allows deliberate and specific interventions throughout the entire course
of its coming into being. By moving and metabolizing, protocells may form
the basis for a synthetic surface ecology. These interventions are the
basis of what we call protocell architecture.

6. We do not wish to imitate nature, we do not wish to reproduce nature,
we want to produce architecture in the way a plant produces its fruit. We
do not want to depict, we want to produce directly, not indirectly, since
there is no trace of abstraction. We call it Protocell Architecture.

Protocell Architecture embodies the principles of emergence, bottom-up
construction techniques and self-assembly. It is equipped with design
‘handles’ that enable the architect to persuade rather than dominate the
outcome of the system through physical communication. As such, these
systems are unknowable, surprising and anarchic.

7. We want to collage effective organic machinery that composes itself
according to the drivers of biological design.

Protocell Architecture is chemically programmable and operates in keeping
with the organizing principles of physics and chemistry.

8. We want over and over again, movement and connection; we see peace only
in dynamism.

Protocell Architecture gathers its energy from the tension that resides at
an interface between two media such as oil and water, which causes
movement, disruption and change. Protocell Architecture resists the
equilibrium since this constitutes death.

9. The head is round, so thoughts can revolve. The head of architecture is
green, robust, synthesized and exists everywhere simultaneously, whether
it is large or very, very small.

Protocell Architecture is fashioned from ‘low tech biotech’ characterised
by ubiquitous, durable and affordable materials.

10. We wish to blur the firm boundaries, which self-certain people
delineate around all we can achieve.

Protocell Technology becomes a co-author in the production of architecture
through the possession of living properties and its ability to

11. We tell you the tricks of today are the truths of tomorrow.

Protocell Architecture is better adapted to the prevailing physical and
social conditions since it is founded on a new set of technologies that
are not ‘alive’ but which possess some of the properties of living
systems. As such these technologies are qualitatively different to the
industrial and digital technologies that have become the mainstream tools
of the twentieth century.

12. We will work with things that we do not want to design, things that
already have systematic existence.

Protocell Technology has the capacity to transform and modify existing
building materials and architecture with the potential for surprise.

13. You know as much as we do that architecture is nothing more than
rhythms and connections.

Protocell Architecture embodies the complexity of materials in a literal,
rather than metaphorical manner and becomes a physical part of our

14. We will construct exquisite corpses not dead but alive and useful.

Protocell Architecture is central to the understanding of living systems.
It allows us to work with and enhance the unavoidable inconsistency which
is the essence of life itself.

15. We deal in a second aesthetic, one that initiates beginnings and
moulds with natural forces.

Protocell Architecture is connected to the environment through constant
conversation and energy exchange with the natural world in a series of
chemical interactions called ‘metabolism’. This involves the conversion of
one group of substances into another, either by absorbing or releasing
energy – doing more with less.


~ by Dharmesh on November 18, 2009.

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