Recently I spent the day making ice crystals in the kitchen. The relatively simple experiment requires little more than a plastic bottle, some dry ice, and a lot of patience!

In short you surround the bottle with dry ice to lower the temperature to the crystal forming region ( 0 to -20), have a source of water within the bottle – a wet sponge – to saturate the air within the bottle, and a point on which the crystals can form – Here I used a fishing line running through the middle of the bottle.

Early signs of crystals

At the 10 minute mark the first signs of crystals were materialising

The First Ice Crystal

A further 10 minutes into the experiment and proper flakes began to form

Crystal formation on growth chamber sides

At the 45 minute mark better crystals had formed on the sides of the growth chamber than on the nylon thread.

An hour into the  experiment and the crystals had started to grow radically and lost much of the symmetry found in the earlier stages. I put this down to the varying conditions brought on by continuously opening the chamber to take pictures, so i decided to repeat the experiment under more controlled conditions and left the grown chamber untouched for an hour. This allowed the development of a nicely symmetrical fernlike dendrite branch (nearly 1cm long!!):

Bridging the Digital Divide with Sparchitecture

More than 4 billion human brains are not connected to the global machine that is internet. The enormity of this divide is cause for concern. So how do we bridge this divide? India has the greatest disparity between total population and internet users out of all the countries in the world. The majority of users are located in urban areas, the rural parts are digitally disconnected.

By trying to include an exemplar rural community in West Bengal into the global digital network, we aimed to develop an architecture that considered India’s local resources and culture. By using Jute which is a vegetable fibre that is also the highest produced agricultural product in India, we intended to show-case the communities local materials and skills. India’s cultural symbol is represented by the spindle. We took the idea of the spindle to an architectural level by developing a spinning system that would create architecture and become the catalyst for the construction of a spillage (spun village).

The community’s internet inclusion would be manifested by the setup of a blog that would advertise the community and promote their growth by attracting tourists to come and visit the site. With the growth of the community the spaces would accommodate visitors and the site would become an ecotourism destination. Ultimately, this scheme was conceived to diffuse the ideologies beyond the borders of the community, spreading local ideas. This exemplar settlement would become a precursor for change in other communities across the developing world that have the right to the internet, unleashing a cornucopia of human thought!

By Maria Valente and Anam Hasan

The Floating Earth Islands of The Zambian Twa Tribe

It’s time to break the monopoly of Monsanto!

Companies such as Monsanto are pushing the parameters of agricultural biotechnology to develop to ‘super’ crops which are able to survive in conditions that previously they would have perished within. This depicts a positive image of a global agricultural firm such as Monsanto, though this is predominately not the case and although the new developments in crop growth is perceived to be the future it is as highly critised and linked to names such as ‘Frankenstein foods’. Can a technology giant/charity like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation compete against a global agricultural giant like Monsanto and provide an equal competitor? The ‘Floating Earth Islands’ provide the opportunity to harvest a GM free alternative for Maize crop growth whilst also providing habitats for the fish in the Kafue River, which the Twa Tribe farm. As the floods recede and the land is returned to a harvestable condition the Twa Tribe can inhabit the clay pot structures that once were required to prevent the floods from destroying the tribes crops and livelihood.


Ecovative are a New York based research group who are growing a new material using fungi. The process uses an organic aggregate, such as seed husk or other agricultural / industrial by products, as its base. This aggregate is mixed with mycelium fungi and packed into a former to give it the desired geometry. Being a loose aggregate it will fill any former created. The mixture is then left for several days, over which time the fungi grows into a microscopic web of fibres which bond the aggregate into a solid mass. This growth requires no water, light or petrochemical inputs. Every cubic inch of material contains a matrix of 8 miles of tiny mycelial fibres. At the end of the process, they put the materials through a dehydration and heat treating process to stop the growth. This final process ensures that there will never be any spores or allergen concerns.
The company are currently exploring applications of the material in multiple industries from packaging and consumer products to architecture and automotive manufacture. They are also looking for potential partners with which to develop aspects of the material further.

More info:

Algae Growth

Vertical growth/closed loop production has been developed by biofuel companies to produce algae faster and more efficiently than open pond growth. With vertical growing, algae are placed in clear plastic bags/tubes, so they can be exposed to sunlight on all sides. The extra sun exposure increases the productivity rate of the algae, which in turn increases oil production. The algae are also protected from contamination due the closed envionment of their growth.

This small scale experiment shows the growth of algae in a clear plastic tube of rainwater exposed to sunlight. An air pump is used to circulate the algae solution and to provide ample ‘dirty’ air including carbon dioxide. The rainwater provides nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus also required for algae growth. It can be seen that algae grows rapidly – in a matter of days – unlike seasonal crops.



Random Linear Growth – Hoopsnake

This example shows an animation of my ‘work-in-progress’ Grasshopper definition that uses Hoopsnake to recursively perform a ‘copy by mirror’ function on a geometric form. The two examples are based on a cube and a tetrahedron. The growth is linear; expanding by one module with each step. The position of each new module is determined by a new randomly selected face of the preceding module.

I would like to develop the definition so that it doesn’t self intersect, so any comments with ideas on how to achieve this would be appreciated!