- Date: 15/02/12
- Lecturer: Rachel Armstrong
- Topic: Evolved not made
‘Evolved not made’, a lecture given by Rachel Armstrong was incredibly stimulating and inspiring. Rachel senior TED Fellow, is a sustainability innovator who creates new materials that possess some of the properties of living systems, and can be manipulated to ‘grow’ architecture. Her innovative ideas provide sustainable solutions for the built and natural environment using advanced new technologies such as, Synthetic Biology – the rational engineering of living systems and smart chemistry.
Rachel has always had an interest in Biology, medicine and most prominently; the natural world. Her curiosity surrounding the natural world and its resources, how everything functioned drove her to pursue a career in this department. As she admitted to recalling to once being fascinated with mud, touching it, tasting it, feeling it. Rachel stated that it struck her that there was more to this, in this natural world, the capability of creating form and function. She studied medicine to engage with her interest of Biology and the engineering of living things.
Rachel spoke about her visit to a Leprosy hospital in India when she was a medical doctor and discovered that this chronic disease was profound. It causes the body to be eaten away by the nervous cells eventually to break down; in some severe conditions, the patients may become permanently disabled or lead to death. Patients were aware that their nervous system could no longer be restored, regardless they insisted on getting certain body parts such as the nose shaped by inserting wax into the cavity in order to retain their human appearance.
Rachel stated that instead of making the body more machine like people were using materials to make them more human like; something which shocked her. This underpins a new trend in our society, people are now able to manipulate their facial structures and replace organs as they please due to advance biological technology. Because of this, our bodies are viewed to be more machine like rather than just living tissues and organisms.
I agree with Rachel that we abuse this and humans treat their environment as a machine too where we are selfish and extract materials for our own benefits. In majority of cases where nature and machinery collide, the after effects are indeed harmful for our environment and is not sustainable.
A solution Rachel argues would be Bio-Architecture which would be ideal to make the world a more sustainable place. With the ever growing human population meaning the need of space to accommodate the amount of people has always been a problem. Rachel has been researching about a Protocell which is able to produce solid substances and absorb Carbon Dioxide. It is still in the early stages but this would contribute to a brighter future ensuring that our homes a more carbon negative living space.
In her opinion, some of the greatest and strongest architecture can be found in nature, examples she showed were spider’s threads where some could be stronger than steel and naturally occurring bridges. This showed that nature makes up a huge part of our world alongside the machinery fragments and seems to be initiating to architects to consider more of using patterns and materials from nature to promote a more sustainable future in the benefits of both our environments and ourselves.
Rachel is someone with a mind full of extraordinary ideas, ways to prompt re-evaluation of sustainable development of the built environment. She spoke her words with such passion and confidence, I could not help but be lifted by the energy. Her lecture I’m sure many would agree was thought provoking, she is surely someone who would bring better change to our world. Bio-architecture; something I look forward to discovering more about in the future and understanding in greater depth.