Zbigniew Oksiuta (PL)

Zbigniew Oksiuta – Huset som Bioreaktor

It is remarkable that the name of the basic unit of life - the cell - has a spatial and architectural connotation. But the living cell is not a chamber. It is clump of sticky liquid protoplasm at a nano-scale. It works not mechanically but as a chemical factory. In dynamic feedback correlations with the surrounding it produces and manages all processes that are needed for it to live.

Can life processes, which normally take place at the nano-scale, in proteins, acids and saccharides, translate into the macro-scale? We understand that a stretching of a living cell to the size of a house is not possible. It is necessary to develop new ways, until now not existing in nature, which would make it possible for the biological processes to occur at an architectural scale.

The subject of my research is to create conditions for development of a biological habitat as a bioreactor. For this reason the examination of dynamic systems that transfer information and energy through liquid media is needed. I use biological polymers, mostly gelatin and agar, as building materials. I develop liquid, jelly-like bubbles and rigid membranes on a human scale under different gravitational conditions: on Earth, under water and in Space (Spatium Gelatum and Isopycnic Systems Projects).

These membranes and shapes can be compared to a state of a rigorous building. They are still lifeless, but with a large biological potential. They can be used as mere soil and scaffolding for the growth of living organisms. This part of the project deals with tissue engineering. The aim of the research is to breed three-dimensional skins and bladders. These spatial forms can be used as containment,the interior of which would be the biological reactor (Breeding Spaces Project).

In order to achieve this, the whole transparent research container is constructed as a biological ‘Petri dish’ at an architectural scale. Breeding Spaces is an attempt to generate a system in which the borderline separating the interior from the outer environment is not a foreign body but an immanent element of the whole structure. It plays an active role in the processes inside the system, thus drawing on properties that are specific to biological membranes in living organisms. The breeding process involves injecting plant and animal cells into the interior of a form, in this way creating a kind of biological fabrication or introverted biosphere.

I can imagine a human habitat as a clump of liquid matter surrounded by a membrane with different compartments inside which would be acting as biological reactors.
Sun energy could activate information embedded in the compartments set in the protoplasm drops and start biological self-organization processes. The compartments acting as ‘biofabricators’ will produce on the spot, and in a decentralized way, all what the system needs: food, tools and energy.

The core of this mega “cell” will be a man as the holder of the genetic information and the creator of the cultural replicators - the memes. If in such a system the dynamic dance between genes and memes develops symbiotic correlations, the whole could grow to a new kind of organism. More, it could become potentially a new replicator and open a biological future.


Technical partnership:
Wolf-Peter Walter
Econtis GmbH, Emmen, Nederland

Scientific cooperation:
Dr Björn Podola
Work group Prof. Dr Michael Melkonian
Botanical Institute, University of Cologne

Jens Hauslage
Institute of Molecular Physiology and Biotechnology of Plants IMBIO, University of Bonn
DLR German Aerospace Center, Cologne

Medial cooperation:
André Hindenburg, Sebastian Kaltmeyer, Martin Ziebell, Hauke Sachsenhausen
Industriesauger-TV, 3D Animation/Visual Effects/Motiongraphics, Cologne

Organisational cooperation:
Wojciech Kozak, Toronto, Canada


Zbigniew Oksiuta is an artist, architect and scientist experimenting with the possibility of designing biological habitats. His projects such as ‘Spatium Gelatum’ and ‘Breeding Space’ and 'Beyond Gravity' examine biological technologies which enable the development of new kind of living spaces on the Earth, under the water and in space.

Work of Zbigniew Oksiuta has been shown at venues worldwide including the Venice 
Biennial 2004, the ArchiLab d’Orleans 2004, Ars Electronica Linz 2007, Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth 2007, Center for Contemporary Art Warsaw 2007, FACT Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology Liverpool 2008.

Zbigniew Oksiuta has lectured and presented his ideas at a number of universities, art and scientific institutions including: RWTH Technical University Aachen; National Gallery Warsaw; German Space Agency; Slade School of Art London; University of Westminster London; Architectural
Association London; Pratt Institute New York; Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design UofT Toronto; Southern California Institute of Architecture Los Angeles; Columbia University New York; The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; FACT Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology Liverpool; School of Art at Illinois State University, Normal; Marshall McLuhan Institute, Toronto

Zbigniew Oksiuta lives and works in Cologne, Germany.