Lignin and Lining – MAAD 2022-23
Director: M. Paz Gutierrez
Plants undergo various protocols that inhibit decomposition. Strategies can range from the secretion of plant resins to mineralization. Vegetal resin secretion is generated to protect from pathogens including fungal deterioration particularly in woody species. Dependent on the plant, protection mechanisms can also be accompanied by morphological changes in their tissue, producing encapsulation. Additionally, plants can undergo mineralization processes, including wood petrification inhibiting aerobic decomposition.
In the petrification process of plants, the bulk of the organic matter decomposes, but lignin remains. The unique material and structural defense strategies of plants are multifold, spanning from resistance to microbial deterioration, harboring pathogens, to preventing water permeation. Along with researching plant microbial protection mechanisms, scientific investigations have recently focused on beneficial synergies of plant tissue with bacteria and fungi for phased degradation and water sorptivity, detoxification, and energy generation. Can defense strategies and intentional incorporation of bacteria and fungi in plant tissue including woods lead to unprecedented material functionalities in the built environment?
This studio will explore new architectural enclosure strategies stemming from this inquiry. Students will explore the design and prototyping of enclosures with plant microbial defense mechanisms and synergy with bacteria and fungi for detoxification, water management, and energy generation. Through it, the studio will foment new models of lignin-based architecture and healthy environments.
Professor Gutierrez is recognized internationally as an innovator in the intersection of architecture, engineering, and science exploring materials invention from the nano to the building scale. In 2008 she founded her research group BIOMS that focuses on multifunctional capacities of natural materials in the energy-water-air and culture nexus. Gutierrez’s research and design have been featured in leading scientific and architectural, and public forums including Science Nation and the BBC, and a semifinalist of the most prestigious award in sustainability design innovation – Buckminster Fuller Award. Gutierrez is a former Senior Fellow for the Energy Climate Partnership of the Americas (2011-16), a Fulbright Fellow, and the only architect to be lead PI in the prestigious Emerging Frontiers of Innovation Award by the US National Science Foundation. Professor Gutierrez’s award-winning research has been published in the most prestigious scientific journals including Science and Nature and exhibited internationally in biennials and museums including the Oslo Architectural Triennale. Her recent investigations include plant waste composites with multifunctional capacity for flood resilience and craft reclamation through multiscale 3D printing technology applied in remote regions including in the Western Amazon. Gutierrez is a recipient (shortlisted) of the 2020 President's Medal of Research by the Royal Institute of Architects and a current Bakar Fellow 2020-22 for her research on microengineered lichen blocks for air detoxification.