Magnus Larsson hopes to build new structures in the desert — by using bacteria to turn shifting sand into a solid mass.

Why you should listen

Architecture student Magnus Larsson wants to turn some of the most deserted and harsh landscapes on the planet into habitable structures. How? By turning loose sand dunes into solid architecture using bacteria. A team at UC Davis has been looking at the microorganism bacillus pasteurii to solidify the ground in earthquake-prone areas. As Larsson puts it, "All I did was to deliberately misapply their technology ... and to pump up the scale, and turn it into a 6,000-km-long wall that's made of sand and protects against sand."

After talking with Jason DeJong at UC Davis and with Stefano Ciurli, a b. pasteurii expert at the University of Bologna, Larsson put together a team at University College London to grow the bacteria and attempt to solidify sand. His Holcim Award-winning proposal is a complement to the Green Wall Sahara shelterbelt, being planted across the African continent. Larsson is now investigating how to bring the project to the next stage: a 1:1 scale prototype.

What others say

"One of the most interesting aspects of the project, I think, is that this solidified dunescape is created through a particularly novel form of ‚Äòsustainable construction' -- that is, through a kind of infection of the earth." — Geoff Manaugh, BLDG BLOG

Magnus Larsson’s TED talks

Magnus Larsson on the TED Blog

Twitter Snapshot: Magnus Larsson has a wall to build

July 24, 2009

Magnus Larsson is an architect with a blueprint to build a wall across Africa. A wall made with bacillus pasteurii (microorganisms that create sandstone) to help provide shelter for individuals and curb the destruction of sandstorms. Support for this project was widespread from TEDsters on Twitter: Magnus Larsson wants to build a sand wall across […]

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Quotes from Magnus Larsson

Sand is a magical material of beautiful contradictions. It is simple and complex. It is peaceful and violent. It is always the same, never the same, endlessly fascinating.
Magnus Larsson
TEDGlobal 2009 • 523K views Nov 2009
Ingenious, Inspiring
As architects we’re trained to solve problems, but I don’t really believe in architectural problems. I only believe in opportunities.
Magnus Larsson
TEDGlobal 2009 • 523K views Nov 2009
Ingenious, Inspiring
Sand dunes are almost like ready-made buildings; all we need to do is solidify the parts that we need to be solid, and then excavate the sand, and we have our architecture.
Magnus Larsson
TEDGlobal 2009 • 523K views Nov 2009
Ingenious, Inspiring