BEYOND | call for projects

ENTRY #21 | urban algae canopy

Project Brief

Urban Algae Folly for the Future Food District – Milan EXPO2015

Urban Algae Folly by ecoLogicStudio is the world’s first living edible architecture integrating micro-algal cultures and real time digital cultivation protocols within a soft ETFE skin.

Algae is the seemingly unlikely term that is being discussed at the heart of EXPO Milano 2015.

The London based, Turin born, ecoLogicStudio [Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto] is unveiling a new vision of future bio-digital architecture made of microalgae organisms, as part of the Future Food District project curated by Carlo Ratti Associati at the central crossroads of the EXPO site.

This vision is embodied in a photosynthetic, nurturing folly located near the entrance of the square of the district.

The architectural prototype, which constitutes a revolution in the conception of building integrated farming and urban agriculture, has evolved from ecoLogicStudio’s six years long research on building integrated bio-digital systems.

The exceptional properties of microalgae organisms [Spirulina arthrospira platensis] are enhanced by their cultivation within a custom designed soft ETFE cladding system. This represents a radically new interpretation of the possibilities of the ETFE cladding. A special CNC welding technology is at the core of it and enables ecoLogicStudio to design and control the morphology of the cushions under stress as well as the fluid dynamic behaviour of the nutritious medium as it travels through it.

The flows of solar energy, water and oxygen are regulated to respond and adjust to weather patterns and visitors’ movements in real-time. As the sun shines more intensively algae would photosynthesise and grow thus reducing the transparency of the Folly and increasing its shading potential; since this process is driven by the biology of mico-algae is inherently responsive and adaptive; visitors will benefit from this natural shading property while being able to influence it in real-time; their presence will trigger electro valves to alter the speed of algal flow through the canopy provoking an emergent differentiation across the space. In any moment in time the actual transparency, colour and shading potential of the canopy will be the product of this complex set of relationships among climate, micro-algae, visitors and digital control systems.

The Urban Algae Folly will produce the oxygen equivalent of 1 hectares of woodland and up to 25 kg of Spirulina per day, 60% of which is natural vegetal proteins.

Project Credits

Design Team 
Marco Poletto
Claudia Pasquero
Alejandro Barboza
Elisa Bolognini
Alessandro Buffi
Brian Collado
Julien Sebban

Digital responsive systems
Alt N – Nick Puckett

Structural Engineering
Ing. Mario Segreto
Ing. Nicola Morda

Biological Consultant
Catherine Legrand


ecoLogicStudio, United Kingdom

Affiliation/Organisation Website :

Organized by :




With the collaboration of :

costrumat logo_B&W