Ikea's Space10 lab pilots food-producing architecture

Edible home

Ikea's Space10 lab pilots food-producing architecture

Algae: it’s the slimy green stuff you find in ponds and canals. Other than that, perhaps you’ve seen a commercial from a climate change-denying energy company praising the plant’s potential. But aside from these instances, not much else is known. That is why the IKEA-funded research group, Space10, off has teamed up with three architects to spread the word about algae’s many capabilities.

Working from Copenhagen, Space10 architects Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski, and Anna Stempniewicz, along with Space10’s bioengineer-in-residence, Keenan Pinto, produced the “Algae Dome.” The 13-foot-high dome was dubbed by the team as a “food-producing architecture pavilion” and was exhibited at the CHART Art Fair in Copenhagen in early September.

(Courtesy Niklas Adrian Vindelev via Space10)

Algae is a photosynthetic organism that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into energy, emitting oxygen and biomass in the process. It has relevant applications for issues like climate change and malnutrition. Space10’s dome, with over 1,000 feet of tubing wrapped around the timber structure, served as a photo-bioreactor. The translucent tubing was mostly green throughout the three-day fair as algae flowed through it, with 118 gallons produced in total throughout the fair.

Space10 were able to harness a lot of algae because it is one of the world’s fastest growing organisms. Some species are “capable of doubling in volume in just six hours,” Space10 noted.

Algae also has potential as a food in the form of spirulina, a strain of microalgae. According to Space10, spirulina contains a wealth of nutritious vitamins and minerals, containing hefty amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, B vitamins and all essential amino acids. Furthermore, spirulina has more beta carotene than carrots, more chlorophyll than wheatgrass, and 50 times more iron than spinach. Whether it tastes nice, however, is another question—but one that CHART-goers might be able to answer.

The research group advocated for algae production outside of their dome. “Picture kitting out bus stops with algae that stripped greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and produced spirulina that could be used to bake fortifying bread for malnourished families,” Space10 argued. They added that such a proposal isn’t such a fantastical idea, citing French and Dutch firm Cloud Collective’s algae motorway farm in Switzerland and Artveoli’s air-purifying wall panels.