Plug-in Habitat is named after the famous ‘Plug-in City’ (1963-66) by the neo-futuristic architectural group Archigram. ‘What happens if the whole urban environment could be programmed and structured for change?’ was the driving question of the architect Peter Cook.
This notion of an architecture that adapts to change—present in their vision of a mutable city orchestrated by prefab removable dwelling capsules—is embodied in the intelligence of plants, whose structure is modular and distributed, without a central control, but with a cooperative organisation that adjusts to altering conditions in their context.
In this project, I investigate these adaptive strategies of plants as well as their relationship with other species. Based on this research, I created two modular units, that are connected to a cushion plant located in the Atlantic Botanical Garden of Gijón. The modules in the installation receive information from the plant about how it adapts to the changes in the environment—and respond to each other in a feedback loop of interactions that regulates the whole system.
Cushion plants are inspiration and source of data, as they are known for their capacity of regulating humidity and temperature within their ‘cushion’ form, serving as a microclimatic shelter for other species. The second module is inspired by the widespread presence of thorns and spiky structures in the vegetation of mountains—which are adaptive tools that not only defend the plants from herbivore predators, but also help reducing water loss.
I worked in collaboration with architect Marlén López, co-founder of Laboratorio Biomimetico, a research and training space in Ladines. The Redes Natural Park—considered a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO since 2001—was the place where we did field research into local species and their biological strategies to adapt to the harsh climate of mountains. An investigation into biomaterials was also incorporated to the project, whose physical components are made of bioplastic. I also received input from Prof. Tobias Seidl, full Professor of Bionics at the Westfälische Hochschule in Bocholt, Germany, with whom she developed the functional architecture of Plug-in Habitat.
Plug-in Habitat aspires to a more organic, self-organised way of building through change—instead of resistance to it. It imagines a living system that embodies conceptual utopian architecture projects. It addresses the idea of an evolution that reinforces the relationships and interactions between agents—rather than the neo-Darwinian logic of the survival of the fittest.
Plug-in Habitat was realised within the framework of the European Media Art Platforms residency program at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial with support of the Creative Europe Culture Programme of the European Union
Host institution: LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Gijón, Spain
In collaboration with Biomimetic Laboratory (Marlén López & Manuel Persa)
Scientist collaborator: Tobias Seidl, (Westfälische Hochschule, Germany)
Biologists from the Atlantic Botanical Garden: Francisco de Borja
Jiménez-Alfaro and Eduardo Fernández Pascual (Oviedo University, Spain)
Sound artist: Ben Tupper
Interactive designer: Adrián Cuervo
Telecommunication developer: Alejandro Juan García
Graphic designer of mural: Elisa Cuesta
Video documentary: Nadia Penella