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Architecture and Urbanism are experiencing major shifts and facing new challenges related to human collaborative behaviours, advancement in technologies and diminishing natural resources. Designers must now rethink how to approach pertinent issues in a more efficient and considerate way with regards to Nature. Leaving behind the rigid-top down Fordist model and the notion of a planet with infinite resources.

Following these logics, we need a biological approach to architecture, one which introduces re-naturalization. We propose to integrate a new metabolic layer in the city, one which will treat waste in a biological manner and be controlled by its users: the citizens themselves. The non hierarchical growing systems will provide citizens with new inputs such as Biogas for their kitchens, filtered grey water for crops and toilets and produce Bio-fertiliser for urban agriculture. Aligning itself with the self sufficient agenda we must follow as 21st century designers.

We follow the example of small communities in less developed counties, that deal with waste in a decentralized and respectful way. Through the installation of human scale technologies and community management, we aim to empower and inspire citizens, educating them to appreciate and support the natural development of our planet.



Our 21st century cities face tremendous environmental challenges and threats for human health. They have become consumption conglomerates, a product of a continuous and speculative urbanization process. Population growth is a non-stopping process and according to United Nations the world population is predicted to grow 8.3 billion in 2030 and to 9.1 billion in 2050. We inhabit the hangover of neo-liberal capitalism and globalization, of centralized models where goods are consumed and have a stipulated programmed obsolescence, sometimes becoming waste disposal which travels to some of the poorest areas of the globe to be handled in unsafe conditions. It is in this context where we aim for a more democratic, decentralized, biological and bottom up waste treatment model, in which citizens are empowered to treat their organic waste in a safer, ecological and, above all, more efficient way. Understanding the Rhizome, we propose a networked urbanism, an interconnected bottom up waste management system, where multiplicities and unpredictable encounters take place, within a social frame.

O Governador de São Paulo, durante entrega de casas do Programa Casa Paulista e Minha Cassa minha vida Data: 14/10/2015. Local: São Carlos/SP Foto Ciete Silvério/A2img

O Governador de São Paulo, durante entrega de casas do Programa Casa Paulista e Minha Cassa minha vida Data: 14/10/2015. Local: São Carlos/SP Foto Ciete Silvério/A2img

The question of how are we feeding our cities (inputs) and what are we discharging must be in the forefront of today‘s agenda. Our 21st century cities need to find solutions for what the Modern 20th century urbanism forgot to take into account: the ‘Metabolic part’ of cities – the symbiosis between ecosystems and the diverse flows that connect city life with nature. In this framework, it is becoming obvious that the role of waste management is more and more crucial everyday. Focussing on Barcelona, there are 3 defined ecosystems – the sea, city & mountain – which currently lack a consistent logic of interconnected ecological flows.
How can we link the ecosystems with people? Can people use Natural processes for treating waste? Are we ready for a decentralized waste system?


Organic [Waste] Cycle



Nature’s Solution

‘The way we tend to use resources is we extract them, we turn them into short-life products and then dispose of them. Nature works very differently. In ecosystems, the waste from one organism becomes the nutrient for something else in that system.’  Michael Pawlyn





Final Prototype


Project Proposal


What if citizens could have a more accessible and human scale organic waste treatment system which they control, grow and manage? Can we improve the urban context by introducing more Self-sufficient approaches which can benefit people, creating new jobs and social interactions? Are we designing within Social innovation principles as Italian design strategist Ezio Manzini encourages us to do?

These and many other questions made our studio project possible. Following these logics, we need a more human and biological approach to architecture. As in a human body metabolism, we propose to integrate a new metabolic layer in the city, one which will treat waste in a biological manner inside the city, via the aggregation of individual waste treatment bio-digesters and structures, creating new urban links between housing and public spaces. The system is aimed to be controlled by its final users: the citizens themselves.




When The System Meets Neighborhood

We aim to introduce the Fab lab concept for self sufficient growing in the human habitat. The project emphasizes the pedagogical aspect of a shared space of this characteristics, making it accessible for the public. Neighbours will translate their ideas into biological machines.







Rizoma is a project of IaaC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia

developed at Design with Nature research line,  Master in Advanced Architecture 01  in 2016 by:

Students: Jose Javier Fernandez Ponce, Jessica Dias and Andre Resende

Faculty: Javier Peña, Rodrigo Rubio, and Oriol Carrasco