SELENIA MARINELLI, new materials for bio-informed architecture

We begin 2024 with an in-depth look at some of the new materials included in the Materials Design Map, a free platform created by WeVux that also presents research and commercialized products – here is the form to submit your project. Today we look specifically at the work of Selenia Marinelli, a bio-architect, independent researcher and material activist based in Rome. Since 2021 she has been working for FVA – New Media Research as Project Manager in several EU-funded projects focused on sustainable circular bio-economy and marine protection from plastic and microplastic pollution.

Selenia’s work helps us imagine a new alternative for the construction sector, one of the most polluting, responsible for 37% of CO2 globally – data provided in 2021 by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Constructions, a voluntary partnership of national governments, inter-governmental organisations and associations established during the COP 21 in Paris.

Selenia Marinelli’s research

Adhering to a post-humanist approach – one that rejects any anthropocentric domination over the environment and other species – and material feminist, Selenia’s research aims are multiple: on the one hand to redefine architecture as a place of coexistence between human and ‘non-human’ inhabitants, and on the other hand to conduct as an independent researcher practical experimentation on the DIY creation of biofabricated materials. The aim is also to promote activism towards these experiments through a transdisciplinary approach to materials design.

Going into detail, Selenia identifies bio-informed architecture as an emerging design approach and multidisciplinary practice that helps to recognise the intricate relationships between different species that coexist in the built environment, thereby increasing the overall sustainability of the field. It is a design that looks not only at the physical factors but also at the biological, social and psychological ones of a given environment (and the different species that inhabit it, down to the microbial level).

Specifically, she works between speculative and functional projects to promote the recognition of designed spaces as potential supporting interfaces for the coexistence of multiple species through innovative bio-based materials. In particular, she explores the integration of biological residues and living organisms (such as mycelia, algae, protocells, moulds and bacteria) to generate positive feedback loops with ecosystems.

New materials for healthier environments

In some of its recent applications, Selenia has developed a series of prototypes that aim to promote debate on the biological residues we produce as food consumers, to be used as a potential raw material for bio-tiles. This is the case with 3 experiments: Shell-based bio-tiles, Not-ordinary Concrete and another bio tile named NextNature Brick. The basis of these materials are food scraps such as egg shells, 90% rich in calcium carbonate, or nut shells, rich in lignin. Calcium carbonate is also the main chemical component of cement-based materials.

Shells in powder form are also used as a base for NextNature Brick, a series of bio-tiles to which blue and green spirulina and activated charcoal are added to create a marbled effect on the surface. These samples, as well as the Shells-based bio-tiles are an interesting example for a discourse – which we will address in the future – related to a new aesthetic for our spaces.

Last but not least, additives. Selenia also investigates how natural additives could help improve the sustainability performance of biomaterials. For example, in its Activated charcoal bioplastics experiment, the addition of activated charcoal makes it possible to obtain a material that can effectively filter out impurities and toxins and thus potentially reduce air pollution. By integrating this material into our spaces, we could improve indoor air quality and eliminate harmful gaseous pollutants.

You can find Shells-based bio-tiles, Not-ordinary concrete, NextNature Brick, e Activated charcoal bioplastics among the selected projects in the Materials Design Map. For more information on Selenia Marinelli’s work you can visit her website!

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