Self-organised biological structures


Translation of self-organised biological structures into parametrical protocols applicable to architectural scale

Background: Biological self-organisation is a process of spontaneous pattern formation; namely the emergence of coherent and stable configurations distinguishable from their environment. This process can occur at various spatial scales: from the microscopic (cellular) to the macroscopic (systems level, architectural scale). An example of biological self- organisation is the bacterial biofilm.


Biofilms are hydrated networks of organic polymers secreted by microorganisms at a phase boundary (e.g., solid-liquid) and self-organised into complex 3-dimensional morphologies with defined functional capacity in regulating permeability and mechanical integrity. Biofilms are considered adaptive primordial organic dwellings providing the function of shelter and protection to the embedded microorganisms from external environment.


The continuous self-organisational behaviour of microbial biofilms to environmental constraints offers potential for exploratory investigation to identify morphological tectonics in biofilm structures that are applicable to the architectural scale through use of parametrical protocols. However, the potential of biofilm morphology in informing a bottom up architectural design is yet to be exploited.



  • Understand principles of structural morphology in microbial biofilms
  • Integrate acquired biofilm-morphological data sets from advanced optical imaging into parametrical protocols applicable to the architectural scale
  • Study the direct application of the algorithmically based protocols into biomimicry structural systems
  • Design of site-specific architectural project with the acquired knowledge

Specific information and requirements: Candidate should have a background in architecture and/or structural engineering. This is a joint project offered by the “Biofilm Engineering” group at the Institute of Environmental Engineering (ISA) and the Chair of Structure and Structural Design (TRAKO).

Contact: Dana Saez M.Sc. and Dr. Peter Desmond
External collaborator: Dr. Davide Ciccarese MIT, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)