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(Archive) Urban Reef

Design for Bio-Inclusive Cities

This project was part of DDW 2022
the founders with three Reefs — © Urban Reef

Urban Reef is a young startup that researches, develops and designs situations and interactions for a more-than-human urban environment. The mission: terraforming world's metropoles.

At DDW22, Urban Reef presents ongoing design research with materials, bio-receptivity and interaction design.

Including all life in design

The city is a shelter for all life, not just humans. Urban Reef questions the human relationship with nature: it is not to control, deny or fix the environment, but rather to stimulate its diversity by creating habitats that give room for spontaneous growth.

To live together with multiple species on planet Earth we (humans) need to give more space to wilderness and nature in cities: both physically and in the collective thought.

The city is a living landscape, a reef

Urban Reef sees the city as a living landscape, a reef. Through research, design, technology and theory Urban Reef develops samples of the bio-inclusive city.

The wilderness-stimulating prototypes are called Reefs. Depending on their application they have a specific name: Rain Reef, Tidal Reef, Zoo Reef. Reefs are labyrinths of shelters generated by natural algorithms and are printed with (living) materials.

With capillary abilities they can absorb water and provide a diversity of micro-climates and nutriens, thus creating more opportunities for organisms to live in the city. Humans can connect with the reefs through senses and IoT sensors.

Three design laboratories

Urban Reef's research themes are: bio-receptive design; biomaterials for urban design and biodiversity; and design for interaction with ecology. Urban Reef works on developing objects using computational design, and field-labs to stimulate spontaneous growth. The strategy is: testing and reflecting by making mistakes. This is work is done in three laboratories:

The living material lab consists of experiments with (natural) materials to use for 3D printing, for example mycelium, bacteria and clay.

The natural growth lab deepens in on the way how materials, shapes and physical conditions play a role for communities of organisms to thrive.

The design & interaction lab seeks out to ideate, visualise and prototype the reefs for growing the bio-inclusive city. It includes philosophical theory, computational design and prototyping with 3D printing techniques.

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the concept: design of microclimates that overgrow — © Urban Reef

real time settings to test reefs in public space — © Urban Reef

research in bioreceptivity by design — © Urban Reef

experiments with living materials