Superficium Studio imagines modifiable homes for biohackers in the deserts of Utah

With a skin made of bio materials, Biohacker’s Residence is a proposed secluded retreat for biohackers to self-administer and practice experimental, gene-editing activities.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Jan 25, 2021

Superficium reveals their prize winning proposal, a communal retreat for biohacker hobbyists, secluded within the red rock desert landscape of Utah, United States. Mirroring the arid site, the house has a craggy, rocky appearance, envisioned as a safe haven for those who like to modify and experiment with the human body to enhance it (legally and otherwise), “for remote practice and self-administration, while they look to challenge what it means to be human,” shares the London-based studio, who won arch out loud’s Innovation Award at HOME 2020 competition with this entry.

01 min watch Horizontal pan of the retreat without materials | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Horizontal pan of the retreat without materials Video: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

Despite the fact that biohacking, also known as DIY biology, is still very much at its nascent stage, the concept has been welcomed for its integration with space, suggestive of a Black Mirror-esque episode. Public areas within the house are designed to support activities such as organic 3D printing and workstations with CRISPR technology, which enables cellular reprogramming through genetic engineering. Other pursuits include bathing in red infrared light, taking supplements daily or in extreme cases, altering DNA to slow down ageing.

Aerial View of the retreat | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Aerial view of the retreat Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

Why is the retreat visualised within a desert? Superficium was interested in cultivating a space of experimentation, and exploring how this might be situated within a remote environment. Utah’s red rock landscape and desert climate provided many interesting design challenges and offered a secluded location away from the city. “We also wanted to investigate how the space will respond to the extreme fluctuation in climate and temperature across seasons,” they share.

“The Biohacker’s Residence speculates the use of 3D-printed, bio-integrated materials to generate its own protective architectural tissue,” says the studio, explaining the house’s “malleable architecture” and what it is built of. The cellular organisation of the residential architecture can be reprogrammed as and when required, to increase internal comfort for the occupant, or steralise the insides as well, all according to the evolving needs of the self-experimenting occupant.

Detailed view of bio-integrated materials | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Detailed view of bio-integrated materials Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

“Our material choices were informed by two key considerations - the appropriate method of fabrication to achieve geometric complexity and the global necessity of building and constructing more sustainably. The external tissue is intended to combine biopolymer composites, bioplastics and silicone elastomers,” continue co-founders and directors Samuel Esses and Jonathan Wong.

Plan showing how the proposal integrates into the desert landscape | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Plan showing how the proposal integrates into the desert landscape Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

“Each would serve a different purpose from providing insulative properties for internal environmental comfort, to translucent surfaces that dissipate natural light. Internal surfaces could also be 3D printed with antibacterial material to support certain biohacking activities through inherent sterilisation properties,” they continue.

Cutaway axonometric showing the body therapy units, CRISPR editing workstation, and organic 3D printer | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Cutaway axonometric showing the body therapy units, CRISPR editing workstation, and organic 3D printer Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

The intended design and its location pointed to an off-grid existence, and so Superficium imagined the house and its services to be self-reliant. These are explored via various integrating energy management systems such as solar harvesting within the regenerative panels of the house. These will enable the residences to harvest, store and reuse water, solar, electricity and geothermal energy.

Initial sketch idea | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Initial sketch idea Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

“Since the availability of home-use biotechnology kits, do-it-yourself biohacker communities have surged along with an increasing synthesis between home and laboratory,” share Esses and Wong. They came up with 16 different spatial arrangements using a recursive turtle sequence algorithm, and each generated organic form is the outcome of a set of probabilities of the imagined spaces.

Interior view of the communal lounge | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Interior view of the communal lounge Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

Esses and Wong tell STIR that they are extremely interested in exploring the future of domestic spaces and how they can be reimagined and designed to support specific communities and activities, marrying it with technological advancements. “Biohacker’s Residence started out as a question on the wellness of the human body and its relationship to space. It then led us to the intriguing phenomenon of biohacking. This presented us an opportunity to speculate these future living conditions through the participation of biohackers in creating a link between space and body personalisation,” they say.

Section showing living and storage units | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Section showing living and storage units Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

“We believe that the project could be viable through self-funding from within the biohacking community. Crowdfunded platforms could also provide a promising route in realising the proposal. We also speculate that with common access to mass 3D printing, one of the living compartments could be printed and constructed within a period of a week to a month. While the project is conceptual, we remain hopeful to implement it one day,” the designers conclude.

Selection of 16 spatial arrangnement generated by algorithm | Biohacker’s Residence by Superficium | STIRworld
Selection of 16 spatial arrangnement generated by algorithm Image: Courtesy of Superficium Studio

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