Bio_reClaim – Introductory Studio – Active Public Space – EcoMachines



Project Outline


Previous experiments by Wolf H. Hilbertz(1) used the electro-accumulation of minerals in the restoration of coral reefs and revitalisation of sea life. Hilbertz trade-marked the accreted substance as Biorock. Our aim is to first understand and experiment within the material limits of BiorockTM as an active urban application. We do this by controlling the accumulation process and devising a physical system which we can bio-computationally manipulate to suit our purpose.  

Bio-computational research in geometric formations leads to bones as a model for developing a biologically responsive material. Similar to bones, BiorockTM substance is a dynamic system that is able to repair itself after functional failures. Bone, regenerates and calcifies according to the external stimuli that is applied, resulting in the re-organizing of organic material which is distributed to a geometric output. Scientific research informs us that there are certain environmental conditions required to successfully generate electrodeposited minerals in seawater. The key minerals required for optimum growth are calcium phosphates, also present in greywater runoff. We conducted a series of controlled experiments with this mineral content and bone substratum, carefully varying the the control parameters, to  produce the optimum growth suitable for full scale urban recovery and activation.


Research Conception



As a point of departure within our research, we looked towards the regenerative and self healing properties found in bones and tried to conduct research and accumulate information on the structural matrices/processes involved in bone formation. This information could be crucial to inform the properties we would want to achieve in our biorocks.




Multitudes of scales were explored within the research, from the inception of global shapes of specific bones all the way to molecular behaviour of bone formation. Our goal was to understand the behaviour in order to extract an algorithm that we can apply to influence the formation of the biorocks.





The cell behaviour found in the formation of bones takes on the natural regulation of cells based around voronoi arrangement of geometry. Similarities in form can also be seen in various systems throughout nature.



In order to test our theories, we conducted a series of 6 experiments.


01 – Replication



Fabrication Techniques – Version 1





02 – Mineral Matrix

This experiment was setup to observe the material properties achieved through the variation of the chemical composition within the Growth medium.



Observations & Data Collection




03 – Pulse Modulation

This experiment was orientated to observe the effects of varying or modulating the pulse in the electro accumulation process of the biorock.

The same material matrix was used as a base for the experiment.




04- Bridging

This experiment was orientated towards observing the possibility of the growth to bridge between a set distance or gap. This property could be highly beneficial for our desired programmatic design utilisation of the machine.




05 – Prototype 

What will be the properties of the growth when the machine is upscaled?



06 – Stress line Conversion

The natural logic and algorithm obtained from the theoretical investigations early in the research process can now be applied to the final prototype system. Stress lines we extracted from an optimised amorphous structure. The design of the form was based upon maximising the potential appropriation towards an active public space.




Project Manifesto





By establishing a low voltage current between electrodes in seawater, calcium carbonates, magnesium hydroxides, and hydrogen are precipitated at the cathode (a positive charge), while the anode (a negative charge) produces oxygen and chlorine. Our recent experiments with calcium and phosphates have demonstrated the feasibility of targeting minerals polluting seawater to create the required mineralised building material. Material properties, limits, and economies of scale were investigated in a series of six controlled experiments.  

The first experiment was conducted to verify whether we are able to replicate similar results to Hilbertz initial experiment.  Our second experiment, we created a matrix of varying amounts of calcium and phosphate concentrations to investigate the resulting structural properties. The analysis of the effects in the modulation of current in the behaviour of the rock growth was the aim of the third experiment. Our fourth experiment dealt with the distance thresholds of the growth to bridge between one another through the calcification of the minerals. In order to ensure we obtained growth, we made a smaller prototype as our fifth experiment to investigate the effects of upscaling the experiment, maintaining the optimised mineral concentration obtained from the second experiment to see if a similar growth can be achieved. The sixth and final experiment combines the derivation in the formulation of bone structures acting upon different stress stimulus. A simulation of the conversion of stress lines to inform the configuration in the densification of voronoi shapes were executed to inform the final design of the structure.

The experiments were driven by the theoretical possibilities to host the different programmatic functions mentioned earlier in the paper. An example of this would be the results of the fourth experiment. The potential to bridge and create connections between territories can become a catalyst that hosts public activity and interaction. A calculated byproduct of the application is also to enhance the natural process to recycle and maintain balance of mineral composition and stress thresholds  within the specific context.



The obtained knowledge from the experiments we have conducted has equipped us to propose an immediate application of an accreted substance in specific areas of Barcelona. Especially, with the mediterranean climate, occurrences of torrential rains will cause the breach of flood plains of riparian corridors such as the Besos River. During these phenomenons, toxic materials pass the threshold capacity contained within the water body. The outlet for the accumulation of these materials through the water path of the river to the mediterranean sea is through the mouth of the river in Barcelona. At this location, the concentration of pollutants are projected to be at its highest point and provides an excellent basis for a potential case study for a life scale prototype of our application. As an architectural intervention, the apparatus can act as  an educational tool for the surrounding communities. The level of accretion and calcification of the minerals acts almost as an indicator of the pollution levels within the water, which may trigger a realisation within the neighbouring communities to change their modes of behaviour in the production of pollutants.

Positive examples of a similar cleansing/scrubbing system – Copenhagen. Where for many years, the discharge of wastewater polluted the harbour water, with sewage, algae and industrial waste, and outdoor swimming became a thing of the past. Now, local councils investments to improve water quality have recovered the recreational environment in the harbour area. It is only during very heavy rainfall that waste water containing bacteria and other pollutants is discharged to the harbour. On these isolated occasions, of which there are very few during the summer season, an established online warning system calculates the water quality in the harbour and the swimming facility at Islands Brygge is closed if the water quality is poor. We prophesy that our recovering application will perform in a similar manner, acting as a biological indicator to the citizens of Barcelona.

Bio_reClaim is a project of IaaC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at Master in Advanced Architecture 1(MAA01)  in (2015-16) by:


  • Lalin Keyvan
  • Christopher Wong
  • Robert Staples
  • Abdullah Ibrahim
  • Luis Bonilla
  • Jonathan Irawan


  • Claudia Pasquero (Introductory Studio Tutor)
  • Carmelo Zappulla (Introductory Studio Tutor)
  • Maria Kupstova (Introductory Studio Assistant)