Roundup: Hybrid Futures with speculations by Vera Meyer and Sven Pfeiffer

The evening of the third “Hybrid Futures” event series started with a welcome of the virtual audience by Nina Horstmann, coordinator of the Hybrid Plattform, and Stefanie Holzheu, who works at the Futurium Lab. 
Having introduced the two protagonists, Vera Meyer, professor for Applied and Molecular Biology (Technische Universität Berlin) and Sven Pfeiffer, professor for Digital Design, Planning and Construction (Bochum University of Applied Science), the first question was how they both arrived at their research fields.

Discussing “Faust” at school, Vera Meyer was amazed by the idea that there is something that holds the world together and tried to find out what it is ever since by looking for the invisible in the exciting field of Biotechnology.
One of the biggest limitations in her field of research is the approach to isolate microorganisms instead of analysing them in nature, where they often exist in symbiosis with other matter. 
In order to understand these complex systems as biotechnologist you have to work continuously with physicists and chemists, i.e. making it an interdisciplinary field. It is here, in the interdisciplinary exchange, that Vera Mayer sees the root for innovation in the 21st century.

Sven Pfeiffer second this claim and compared his architectural education to a studium generale combining artistic, economic and technical aspects. Not only the horizontal line of disciplines but also the vertical line of time is an important factor in architecture when it comes to integrating into new construction methods materials that were used thousands of years ago.

While working on the mutagenesis of Fungi Vera Meyer translated the Bauhaus principle “form follows function” to “form follows gene function” showcasing one of many bridges between the world of architecture and the world of biotechnology.
One of those Fungi, the tinder sponge (fomes fomentarius), seems to be a very promising building material because of its condensed, extremely light but stable properties. Even though there’s a still a long way to its use on a large scale, the life cycle assessment analyses, during which electricity, CO2 and water usage are evaluated, showed that the ”bio-bricks” performed better than the concrete bricks.

Sven Pfeiffer showed us that buildings always consist of many different layers with different durations and how we might replace traditional with bio-based material step-by-step; a process that is called additive manufacturing.
As one can change the material properties by modifying the biology of the Fungi there is a wide range of possibilities to utilise it within the building industry and by architects.

Traditionally Fungi act as some kind of waste removal service in nature by simultaneously decomposing and synthesizing resources. Taking this idea a little further one could think of the Fungi itself as a designer which dictates how we could live in a couple of decades by adapting to new environments. 
Similar to the Japanese architecture where irregularities often make the artistry, this could be a new way of perceiving natural beauty.

To realize these ambitious plans, Vera Meyer and Sven Pfeiffer hope to expand their team by inviting climate researchers to calculate water and energy usage, forestry economists to find out which plants grow the fastest and the most efficient, and participation researchers to integrate society in the quest of finding the right aesthetics for this architectural revolution.

Coming to the conclusion that the future will be determined by swarm intelligence and interdisciplinarity the last question for Vera Meyer and Sven Pfeiffer was to imagine how our world would look in 50 years’ time. 
Their vision of vertical living in extremely high houses entirely made of Fungi fuelled by wind power and solar energy seems like a very promising outlook and I hope we will be able to experience this microbiological sensation as soon as possible.

- Aljoscha