Blow into Algae and Help it Grow at This Greenhouse

Something between a greenhouse, a laboratory and an art exhibit, the shimmering plastic bags and tubes that hang from the ceiling at the Architectural Association in London invite a quiet sense of awe even before you learn what they are. The bags are full of algae, and visitors are invited to blow into the tubes to help it grow.

Far removed from and yet inspired by the traditional culture of indoor cultivation in England, the display looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. The exhibition, by EcoLogic, is called H.O.R.T.U.S., or Hydro Organism Responsive to Urban Stimuli. The focus is not just on the algae itself, but on the interaction between it and the people who pass through the exhibit.

Not only do visitors make their way across rolling green carpets into the hanging laboratory, blowing into the tubes to nourish the various types of algae with their exhalations, they can use their smart phones to scan each photobioreactor’s QR code, learn more about the algae they interacted with, and tweet about it.

“You become a cyber gardener,” says EcoLogic Studio’s Claudia Pasquero at Domus. “The project makes you think about farming and gardening, but there is another level where knowledge can be disseminated and exchanged, and it’s a virtual cultivation of knowledge. Media technologies and material systems come together.”

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