Focus Artistic Research

GrAB – Growing As Building

Barbara Imhof

Institute of Architecture

"GrAB – Growing As Building" takes growth patterns and dynamics from nature and applies them to architecture with the goal of creating a new living architecture.


The aim of the project GrAB is to develop architectural concepts for growing structures. Three main directions will be investigated: transfer of abstracted growth principles from nature to architecture, integration of biology into material systems and intervention of biological organisms and concepts with existing architecture. Key issues of investigation will be mechanisms of genetically-controlled and environmentally-informed, self-organised growth in organisms and the differentiation of tissues and materials. Research parameters will include for example size, height, speed and properties like the stiffness or flexibility of structures, which are equally important in living systems and in architecture.


The methodology of biomimetic information transfer used will be based on refined methods from previous projects like "Biornametics". Computer simulations re-modelling relevant principles and physical models will be used to understand selected natural phenomena and inform the translation process. Artistic and architectural tools and methods will be jointly used with practices from the natural sciences. A Biolab will provide hands-on experience with growth of organisms.


The architectural interest lies in the development of structures in a specific environment following an interaction of elements derived from natural pattern formation. To support the transfer of dynamic, growing structures recent advancements in processing technologies like additive manufacturing systems will be looked at and possibly integrated into design concepts and both analogue and digital models. Scales tackled can include materials (also nanoscale), built elements and structures and urban systems.

Apart from architects and artists, scientists from the field of biology, biomimetic and engineering including students will collaborate to develop this project in a holistic way and to supply all the necessary expertise.