One of the world’s most pioneering research lab’s in the field of urban design, the Synthetic Landscape Lab at the University of Innsbruck explores how we re-invent our urban and peri-urban spaces so that they sync with non-human systems of both the biotic and abiotic kind. Led by Professor Claudia Pasquero, with the help of an international team of internal and external experts, the lab utilises hybridised approaches integrative of both e-tech and bio-tech sourced, processed, actualised, and distributed data, together with both traditional and emerging modes of design modelling and development more generally, including immersive design VR, AR, and MR systems.
A visiting juror at the lab since 2020, on June 12th I joined staff, students and fellow external jurors, including Neil Leach, Gustavo Afonso Rincon, and Daniel Koehler among others, for its 2021 final jury across courses including its both pre-diploma and diploma courses. Collectively the jury noted that, despite the significant limitations that were created by the pandemic – namely the fact that restrictions on movement had rendered the courses being taught entirely online - the standard of the works presented was outstanding.
A consistent theme across the various projects was the sourcing and application of spatial and wider environmental information from non-human and/or human subjects. Though a long-standing theme across the biosynthetic and wider synthetic urban design community, 2021’s presentations integrated some of the most sophisticated approaches yet, in each instance enabled through the application of emerging sensing and processing technologies. Collectively, the presentations, of which select examples can be seen above and below, spoke to urban spaces of which the design is informed by real and near-to-real time data on both human and non-human sensory experience spanning not merely sight, but hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and the cognitive responses this experience generates. Put another way, these were works that recognise that wide-ranging factors within the environment impact on both human health and well-being, and on that of the many species with which we share habitats both urban and otherwise.
Another key theme within the works was that of addressing some of the finer details of ongoing research themes both within and beyond the lab, such for example as how to optimise architectural and urban algae farming systems, both to increase food production, and with it, conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen, and more. Whereas more advanced research students explored issues both technical and aesthetic, pre-diploma students focused on the latter, namely the visual potentialities that biological and ecological architecture and urban design may present – the visual language of this still emerging school of thought and design.
View a selection of completed Synthetic Landscape Lab research projects here.
Melissa Sterry, PhD, chartered design scientist, systems theorist, biofuturist, and serial founder inc. Bionic City®
Asking the question "how would nature design a city" since 2010.
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