In this paper the authors propose a conceptual model and a bio-computational design method to articulate the world's Urbansphere, suggesting new terms for its co-evolution with the Biosphere.
The proposed model responds to principles of biological self-organisation, and operates by embedding a numerical/computational engine, a living Physarum polycephalum, onto a spatial/morphogenetic substratum, a Satellite driven informational territory. This integration is embodied in the Physarum Machine, a bio-digital design apparatus conceived by the authors and further developed within the Urban Morphogenesis Lab at the UCL in London.
The use of specifically designed apparatus of material computation to demonstrate and solve problems of urban morphogenesis is not new and the authors refer to the work of German Architect Frei Otto and his theory for the occupation and connection of territories.
This research leads to a notion of bio-city of the future where manmade infrastructures and non-human biological systems will constitute parts of a single biotechnological whole. To this respect it can be read as a manifesto for the extension of biotechnology to the scale of the Biosphere (biosphere geo-engineering) by expanding the scope and material articulation of global informational and energetic infrastructures (the internet of things and the internet of energy).
In the tradition of design based research, the paper also suggests an application of the proposed model to a specific case study demonstrating its efficacy in the re-conceptualization of the post-industrial and ecologically depleted landscapes of eastern Arizona. In conclusion the experiment describes the potential of augmenting materiality through sensors and microprocessors so that it would become possible to harvest the computational power latent in micro-organisms like the slime mould.
The dream outlined here is for an era where descriptive computation will be superseded by our capability to simulate and compute through the world that surrounds us.