While the science, technology and economics of turning algae into biofuel needs further research and refinement, that hasn't stopped designers from dreaming up projects using this new energy source as a point of departure in formal and systems experiments. We have been collecting many such projects over the past years and now would like to present some of the better ones to our readers in a series of posts. They vary in scales, deployment, logistics and context, so there should be something for everyone. Do take what you want from them.
We start with something regular readers will no doubt have seen before, from a year ago. The project is called Drip Feed, the winning entry from architects Thomas Raynaud and Cyrille Berger for the 2G Competition Venice Lagoon Park.
According to Raynaud and Berger:
Our project for the urban park of Sacca San Mattia consists of reinvesting the island in a Venetian, multi-functional approach to urban planning, in the context of an enlarged metropolitan, tourist centre. The Drip Feed project on the Island of Sacca San Mattia puts into place an above-ground ulva rigida cultivation device that is in keeping with the Greenfuel system. A saprophyte structure that ingests polluted waste from local industry, and conceptually redefines the lagoon’s future water level, without harming the natural state of the island.
In other words, algae from the lagoon will be harvested and “farmed” inside bioreactor tubings filled with water taken also from the lagoon.
This process of cultivation would produce the biofuel for the lagoon's transportation and somewhat incredibly, seaweed to feed the tourists. One other byproduct is oxygen, which would be used to reduce the eutrophication of the lagoon caused by industrial run-off. Supposedly, then, one would have to be careful not to reduce it too much or else a new source of algae would have to be found.
Since Venice is “codified as a city-diversion,” Ranaud and Berger wanted to program this site of production into a site of consumption as well. The tubes are arrayed trellis-like. Above and below this emerald ground plane are spaces for activities, for instance, outdoor concerts and camping.
Of course, the entire structure itself would be an attraction, an engineering marvel equal to the Renaissance churches and palazzos just across the lagoon. In fact, if the duo had followed the contours of the hills or better yet, sculpted some imaginary landforms into the structure, it might even compete with the sagging San Marco.
How about recreating the skyline of La Serenissima?
During aqua alta, unlucky tourists will rent gondolas and vaporetti to sail underneath striated onion domes and bulbous, vegetal skies, bathed in modulated light and shadows.
Until its time to eat an overpriced seaweed à la carte menu.