“In the wonderland of biotechnology, bacteria is beautiful, moss is electric and decorative tiles are animated,” writes Julie Lasky in The New York Times (1/17/13). The concept of bacteria and other organisms as the stuff of construction and design is espoused in Bio Design, by William Myers, which features bridges and houses made of living trees, lamps powered by fireflies and concrete that “can heal itself when damaged, like skin.” William admits that it all might sound strange, but in fact micro-organisms have been useful “for millenniums, if you think about baking and brewing.”
The concept does tend to shift perspectives, however. “We’re used to thinking we can throw away objects,” says Joris Laarman, a designer. “We’re not used to objects you can care for or treat well, or that renew themselves.” Among Joris’s creations is the Halflife lamp, which features “a lampshade coated with hamster ovary cells modified with firefly DNA” and “generates an enzymatic reaction that causes the lamp to light up, after a fashion, batteries not required.” To keep the lamp alive and working, its owner must provide “a continuous supply of nutrients.” Feed me …
Mitchell Joachim of TerreformOne is “working on a chair made from a new kind of compostable plastic that combines the root base of mushrooms with genetically reinforced cellulose.” Keratin provides “strength and water resistance.” When you’re ready to throw it out, says Mitchell, “you don’t landfill the thing. You throw it in the garden and it feeds other creatures. It’s part of the web of life.” He also envisions “a house made of living tissue,” or “meat,” as he puts it. Mitchell says his bio-lab receives regular visits from Homeland Security, just to make sure it doesn’t turn into a little shop of horrors.