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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Emergent City in San Juan, Puerto Rico by Joseph A. Sarafian

June 22nd, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Joseph A. Sarafian

By the turn of the Twenty-Second century, a new epoch in global survival had emerged. The human race was no longer concerned with sustainability as a trend, because it could no longer deny the fact that the world was in fact dying. The environmental catastrophes that surfaced in the Twenty-First century became increasingly frequent. Barraged with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, mankind was at the brink of extinction.


  • Architect: Joseph A. Sarafian
  • Name of Project: Emergent City
  • Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico

What emerged was a new strategy in the toolset of disaster housing, but more importantly evolution. Fusing breakthroughs in material science and biology, a band of architects and physicists created a biomechanical organism called the “Arachne”. They were designed not only to learn, but to collaborate with humans, fundamentally changing the relationship between man and machine. The Arachne swarm utilizes synthetic muscles derived from the high compression/expansion ratio of carbon nanotubes when they are given an electrical current.


The Arachne was engineered to descend upon devastated cities and plug into the city’s local information infrastructure. By accessing these “clouds” of information, the Arachne could determine site issues of zoning, occupancy fluctuations, and cultural trends. Upon their arrival, the Arachne would dig into the decaying earth to extract methane, powering the construction process. The Arachne can not only process traffic patterns, structural loads, and pedestrian hot spots, but they collaborate with local residents to build a truly responsive architecture.


Using the logic of a 3d printer, the Arachne deposit strands of material, including Carbon Nanotubes, Porous Alumina, Nanogel, and Micro-Encapsulated Phase Change Material (MPCM), generating emergent solutions that can be rapidly fabricated with minimal macro-scale details. The Arachne understands two fundamental building types, the suspended unit, and the nested unit. Suspended units are hung from a lattice of spun structure while the nested units are built into existing infrastructure that is salvageable. The structures generated are thus a synthesized byproduct of their environment. The third element that the Arachne creates is the transport bot which is responsible for transporting humans vertically throughout the structure. Residents receive microscopic sensors that relay information to the transport bots insuring instantaneous vertical movement.

Photo 01

The role of the Architect thus becomes that of a programmer, biologist, chemist, and physicist. He would design the inputs for the machine and the material composition on a nano-scale, but the Arachne would implement various strings of data, creating an architecture no longer predestined by the motives of hierarchical society.

Photo 02



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