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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.

Biodiversity and the Creation of Mobile Natural Growth by Lijbers Architects

May 2nd, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Lijbers Architects

Context – Problem Definition
One way to look at the decline of natural biodiversity is from the perspective of complex human dynamics –i.e. the organized but fundamentally unpredictable behavior of human systems – and its consequences for the natural environment. We humans tend to expand, move, and reallocate ground at speeds unparalleled within the natural world. Our persistent and unpredictable need for space, land, and raw materials causes the original natural environment to diminish, along with its ecosystem of plants and animals. The highly dynamic reallocation and changing of the earth’s habitat by human action falls short in providing vulnerable species of plants and animals with sufficient time to recover. The continuous cycle of removing and reallocating natural space can, in the best case, maintain a certain amount of the “natural environment”, yet it can never maintain the same level of biodiversity that was originally present.


  • Architect: Lijbers Architects
  • Name of project: Biodiversity and the Creation of Mobile Natural Growth
  • Software used: arkey/ASD and autocad for the basic drawings. And photoshop and illustrator to finish the drawings.

Though it is possible to plant, for example, new forest and recreate natural space for flora and fauna, it will take ages of growth and evolution without human intervention in order to result in the same variety of species as before. Even if young forests are left without human interference for several generations, chances are that the ground it grows on is needed for different purposes in due time and the forest is removed once again. Only through fundamental changes in our relationship with nature can we undo the damage done in the past. It is the responsibility of architects, scientists and alike to create an entirely new conception of the way people interact with the natural world. One could argue, in line with the reasoning described above, that the problem of biodiversity decline can be reduced to just two main issues; a shortage of space and a lack of time, huge amounts of time. These are the two ingredients that an architectural translation needs to achieve in order to maintain the original level of biodiversity within a natural ecosystem.


Figure 1: Schematic representation of the reallocation of space and the resulting disappearance of the original natural environment. Over time, little of the authentic nature remains.

Architectural Enzymes
The metabolism of an ecosystem is extremely slow when measured on clocks made by man. As such, the pace of evolution and the creation of biodiversity is unable to keep up with the movements of human society. In order to speed up the natural process one would need some sort of catalyst. In biology, enzymes are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Almost all chemical reactions in a biological cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates sufficient for life. As a result, products are formed faster and reactions reach their equilibrium state more rapidly. As with all catalysts, enzymes are not consumed by the reactions they catalyze, nor do they alter the equilibrium of these reactions. After the reaction, the enzyme simply returns to its original state waiting to catalyze once more. In order to assist nature in its maintenance and recovery, artificial “enzymes” must be created through an architectural translation. The architectural enzyme should consist of an entity, which would provide a natural ecosystem with all the necessary space and time to evolve and generate biodiversity. The enzyme will not interfere, nor be consumed, but merely facilitate and ensure the chemical processes needed for biodiversity.


Figure 2: Abstract representation of the architectural enzymes facilitating the integration of natural entities within the urban fabric.

The creation of Time
The creation of time through an architectural translation is a difficult issue. Therefore it is useful to wonder why nature should suffer from a lack of time for growth in the first place. Already mentioned is the expanding human need for land and its exploits. But is it really, by definition, necessary to cut down, for example, the rainforest of the Amazon? If we would be able to move and reallocate the valuable and irreplaceable rainforests, would we not do so? More specifically, if we were able to create mobility for nature, would we not simply put our rainforests in places not needed for other purposes? Before cutting down the old and replanting the new we would simply move the original. In other words: keeping all that is, instead of rebuilding what was. Within this philosophy, the creation of natural mobility can supply nature with a virtually infinite amount of time, allowing biodiversity to evolve and be preserved. It is this mobility that we feel our architectural en
zyme should supply.


Figure 3: Schematic representation of the reallocation of mobile nature. All of the original modules remain, although they are reallocated through space. New mobile nature is added to the environment.

The creation of Space
With natural mobility, time is created. However, space is needed in order to accommodate the natural entity. While nature naturally only grows on the mainly two-dimensional surface of the earth, it is up in the air that our planet provides most of its space. Although architects before have attempted to create space by lifting nature up into the third dimension, it is mostly buildings, satisfying the needs of man that rise into our skies. Space or surfaces in its purest form should not be constraint by walls or functional barriers. It must possess the same value and flexibility as land or water at the earth’s surface. The true creation of space would be a boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events can occur without constraints. One may envision nature growing freely on elevated frameworks through our urban surroundings. The city continues where nature is placed on a different level. The mobile nature is not an area, but a network that spreads on different levels above ground, ever changing, ever existing.


Figure 4: The creation of space by taking the natural entities from their 2-dimensional paradigm towards a 3-dimensional network.

Figure 5: The 3-dimensional character of metabolism in relation to the urban fabric.

The added value of the Architectural Translation
The added value of the architectural translation is best visualized using the empty space in urban areas. A new chapter is added in the evolution of cities that emerges from the historical fabric of the built environment. The idea is to add architectural enzymes, or “mobile modules of natural growth”, all over the city. As such, the old forms, and traces of the past, become part of a new ecosystem. The huge amount of available surface area within empty office buildings, ex-industry zones, and other stagnated areas serve as a potential breeding ground for the natural environment. The fusion of land and cityscape introduces recreational and natural qualities into the daily routines of its inhabitants. Through this combination, the past of both the natural and architectural is updated and preserved. The surviving buildings adapt to the new ecosystem as living organisms and at once become both built and natural constructs.


The mobility of the modules allows nature to adapt to the changes of spatial policies and thus maintain a natural system of biodiversity over the course of time. The addition of architectural enzymes to urban areas, not only creates biodiversity in a biological sense, but also within an architectural context. Areas that before where designed with mono-functionalities can finally, trough natural integration, be made attractive and perform other functions as well. The natural modules serve as catalysts for the process of natural integration. The metabolistic strategy spreads out evenly over the city and with it the population will follow. Traditional dwellings will evolve into a new aggregated typology of a community that coexists with nature. The result will be a truly diverse ecosystem, both biological and social.

Biodiversity “the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem”

Complex Systems “organized but fundamentally unpredictable behavior of systems”

Time “a fundamental measure to quantify the rates of change”

Space “the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur”

Metabolism “to change or convert, the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms in order to sustain life”

Enzymes “proteins that catalyze, increase the rates of, chemical reactions”

Reallocate “to assign or allot to a different purpose or person from the one originally intended”

Categories: Autocad, Illustrator, Photoshop, Urban Design

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