Magnus Larsson hopes to build new structures in the desert -- by using bacteria to turn shifting sand into a solid mass.
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.
“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.”
“As architects we’re trained to solve problems, but I don’t really believe in architectural problems. I only believe in opportunities.”
“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.”