Think Small: Architecture and the Microbiome | Architect Magazine
By focusing design around microorganisms, architects can help reduce COVID-19, repair building materials, and even make better cheese.
In “End of the Anthropocene,” an article published in Sci-Arc’s Offramp journal a few years ago, architecture professor Ted Krueger describes the recent discovery of a planet dominated by over a trillion species of terraforming life forms. These earth-shaping organisms not only exert control over the planet’s geology but also its atmosphere and hydrosphere. Where is this celestial body? “You’re living on it,” writes Krueger. “The terraformers are microorganisms.”
Krueger is an associate professor and graduate director at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute School of Architecture; he studies the microbiome and its influences within buildings. In “Microecologies of the Built Environment,” a chapter that he authored in The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture (2019), Krueger argues that architecture’s conventional focus on the human scale should expand to include the microbial scale: “The growing realization of the spectacular diversity of phyla, species, and strains of micro-organisms and their ubiquity, and even more so, the deep interrelationship between humans and microbes, demands that designers also become aware of these relationships and begin to use them as positive assets in their configuration of the world.”
In recent decades, scientists have discovered surprising facts about microorganisms’ influence on human and planetary health. Research programs such as The Human Microbiome Project have revealed the extent to which bacteria and other organisms are a fundamental part of human anatomy.
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