Let’s hear it for nature 2

© Skylar Tibbits and Arthur Olson

Stuff that could make itself

Nature constructs itself, a process that fascinates architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits.  ‘There are no sledgehammers for proteins; there are no screwdrivers for DNA. So maybe there’s another way we can build,’ he says. Skylar is investigating the use of natural energy sources – heat, sound, waves and even gravity – to assemble predesigned components to make furniture, construct buildings and even develop infrastructure.

To demonstrate his thinking, Skylar, along with molecular biologist Art Olson – who studies viral self-assembly – created the Self-Assembly Line, a rotating chamber which, when turned by hand, tumbles pre-shaped pieces that come together to form seats. Of course, this is just demonstrating the beginnings of an idea while challenging people’s notions about how things could be constructed. ‘Techniques for self-assembly,’ Skylar explains, ‘could make accurate construction much easier. Components can be designed so that they dictate where the next one fits, disallowing wrong placement.’

Skylar’s ultimate vision is much larger: he hopes self-assembly will enable us to build multi-storey structures or infrastructure more efficiently and sustainably. He dreams of structures that could be dropped and would unfold before they hit the ground, or that could be assembled underwater using wave energy.

To see it how works go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vjQ-jWPgNs

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