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The paper changes the focus of the design debate from a human-centered design methodology to a posthuman design that takes both human and nonhuman agents into account. It examines how designers might use a multispe- cies perspective to produce projects with distinguished intelligence and performance. To illustrate this, we describe a project of structures for plants that started on a course in an academic setting. The project methodology begins with “Thing Ethnography”, investigating the movement of a water bottle inside a house and its interaction with other objects. The correlation between water and plants was decided to be further expanded, considering how water might enhance the environmental humidity and create a cooler microclimate for indoor plants. According to their effectiveness, 3D-printed biomimetic structures were designed and manufactured as water droplet supports consid- ering different materials, and positioned in various configurations around a plant. Humidity levels and temperature of the structures were measured. As a result, this created a novel method for mass customization and working with plants. The paper discusses the resultant evidence-based design and the environmental values related to it. Keywords Posthuman design, Biomaterials, 3D-printing, Multispecies design, Humidity levels (Crutzen & Stoermer, 2021) and toward biocentrism 1 Introduction (Lanza & Berman, 2010). It exemplifies emergent design For more than three decades, the human-centered par- techniques that highlight the post-humanism discourse adigm has dominated design. Because of the effects (Braidotti, 2013) and makes a case for including nonhu- of technological and environmental transformations, man lifeforms as partners in design research, either as designers are today faced with the task of working on informants and co-designers or as users. As a novel con- complex socio-technical systems (Forlano, 2017). The tribution to the field, the work extends traditional under - research shifts the focus of the design discussion from standings of the “user” to nonhumans and questions the human-centered design (Norman, 2013) to posthuman field of action for the contemporary design practitioner. design (Forlano, 2017), which considers both human and To demonstrate this, it shows a project that started on an nonhuman agents. It questions how designers may uti- academic course and involved designing a set of struc- lize “design for all-life” (Boradkar, 2015) and multispe- tures for plants. So, the project’s objective was to build cies approaches (de Ruiter et al., 2005) to create effective structures that would act as supports to store sprayed projects. water, resulting in a cooler and more humid microclimate The paper offers a posthuman interpretation of the for indoor plants, primary users, and humans. term “user,” moving away from anthropocentrism The project methodology begins with “Thing Ethnog - raphy” (Giaccardi et al., 2016) to examine the move- *Correspondence: ment of a water bottle inside a home and its interaction Andrea Macruz with various objects. Given that plants are impacted by firstname.lastname@example.org Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, Dubai, UAE low humidity and heat excess in indoor contexts, with Tongji University, Shanghai, China the discoloration and brown-colored tips of certain © The Author(s) 2023. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http:// creat iveco mmons. org/ licen ses/ by/4. 0/. Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 2 of 17 leaves, and that water may be utilized as a material to the ones that were too fragile or rigid were discarded, create a cooler and more moisturized microclimate, the and the one with a better water retention performance link between water and plants was chosen to be further was chosen. Also, it is essential to highlight the term explored. Especially in hot climates, constant air con- biomimetic, which means that inspirations are elicited ditioners decrease the low humidity levels even more. from nature to design practical materials and systems According to the biocentric viewpoint, all living things that can imitate the structure and function of native bio- are morally equivalent and deserve the same respect. Bio- logical systems (Sarikaya et al., 2003). In this project, a centrism forces individuals to reconsider how humans study on biomimicry (Benyus, 2002) was carried out and nature interact, contending that neither humans to understand better how to create a cooler and more nor other living things are inherently more valuable than humid indoor microclimate using a sustainable passive the other. It suggests that humans are only one intercon- strategy (Khelil and Zemmouri, 2019) without relying on nected species that depend on other species for survival electricity and how the structures could be connected and development (Lanza & Berman, 2010). So, humans effectively using the same material and manufacturing are considered in a biocentric scenario, but they are not technology. Three biomimicry case studies were used in the center of the chain, such as in an anthropocentric in the design process of the 3D-printed structures: the view. Darkling beetles in the Namib desert (AskNature, n.d.), The paper expands on that idea and analyzes indoor Warka Tower and Bird’s Feathers Interlocking Systems plants’ ergonomics, the ideal conditions for them to (AskNature, 2018). thrive, their relation to humans, and how plants and peo- Consequently, this created a unique and unconven- ple establish a mutualistic relationship in a win–win sce- tional approach to working with plants as nonhuman nario. Ideal humidity levels are essential for both species actors and recognizing the potential of “other-than- to survive; therefore, improving one will surely benefit human” perceptual capabilities and mass customiza- the other. Especially in dry climates, people already have tion. The findings suggested that we better understand the habit of spraying indoor plants’ leaves with it; it is a nonhuman design, ergonomics, and design performance standard and interesting procedure (Robinson, 2022) that to obtain insight into desirable nonhuman scenarios. In helps the plant to thrive and the two species bond. Also, this case, it included understanding the ergonomics of some plant species don’t thrive at all if the internal envi- the plants: shape and sizes of the structures, their grip- ronment is with low humidity and high temperatures. ping mechanism to the different stems’ sizes and for - The question might be how indoor plants and humans mats of varying plant sizes and typologies, arrangement could enhance their interdependence condition in a and placement of these structures, and possible materi- future scenario, especially considering that currently, we als—also, design performance related to the mesh water spend ninety percent of our time in indoor environments retention, mesh condition (lightweight or heavy) and the (Sturgeon, 2017). structure’s joints, to be able to bend and connect. The Therefore, water was introduced into the project to main idea was to extend to nonhumans the same care intensify humidity using 3D-printed biomimetic struc- and attention that people have when interacting with tures as water droplet supports. These design choices their bodies. improved with time and changed in response to their performance. The structures can be joined and placed in many configurations around the plant as architectural 2 Posthuman design and multispecies theory features staged around the plant specimen, as long as Technology breakthroughs are causing a blurring of the they do not block the sunlight from reaching the leaves. conventional dualistic systems of natural and artificial, These arrangements were significant because they ena - human and animal, and human and machine. They high - bled the creation of an evidence-based design optimized light the new sorts of agency that nonhumans, environ- for plant health and performance. An indoor hygrom- mental or technological, have in the world. A growing eter, the Inkbird ITH-20, and a thermal camera, Thermal body of social theory has developed around ideas that Imaging IR0018 resolution 35,200 px, were used to meas- try to explain this boundary-blurring and introduce rela- ure the structures’ humidity levels and surface tempera- tional, hybrid, and non-dual modes of thinking (Forlano, ture change. 2017). This paper focuses on one of these hybrid modes It is important to clarify that the term “structure” in of thought, specifically the posthuman, for a design prac - the paper is approached regarding not the material per- tice that significantly improves our comprehension of the formance of sustaining a load, with established struc- numerous agencies, dependencies, entanglements, and tural testing, but as a recipient for the water droplets. relationships that follow current issues and questions fac- The 3D-printed meshes were observed and evaluated: ing the design field (Forlano, 2017). Daneluzz o et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 3 of 17 The human-centered design approach is a practice interconnection and inseparability of people and other where designers target human needs (Norman, 2013). living things, striving to expand the scope of ethnography However, the human species is merely one of many ele- beyond the limitations of the human experience (Locke & ments that shape our environments, and its agency is Ursula, 2015). established through relational processes rather than pre- Because daily encounters between people and nonhu- determined. As design enters the social sector and han- mans occur mainly indoors, within a house, as opposed dles problems in complex socio-technical systems, it is to in an open space, that was chosen as the research site essential to switch to a larger perspective, such as posthu- for this project. The idea of multispecies opens up fresh man design, which considers both human and nonhuman insights into how nonhumans fit into the design and players. The work being done in post-humanist and post- practices surrounding it. It can be challenging when anthropocentric disciplines argues that to understand the participants aren’t actual persons because participation transitions on our planet better, we should start thinking in design can be seen as a discourse between numerous of manufactured systems as networks that include a vari- users (Lawson, 2005). Before we can acknowledge the ety of living creatures and the agency structures that act agency of other-than-humans, we must first experiment in and around them. with design solutions that can help us hear what other- In addition, design does not have to be seen as an than-humans want to “say” and, considering that, come affirmative discipline but rather as a process-oriented up with alternatives to our social, cultural, and economic analytical tool. One area open to investigation concerns models (Gatto & McCardle, 2019). Nonhumans can the design of re-interpreting man’s connections with engage in the design process and greatly impact how it’s other species and the environment, proposing future done. multispecies cohabitation scenarios. To explore multi- species worlds and learn about environmental challenges, 3 Theoretical underpinnings for methodology designers must become acquainted with different meth - 3.1 “Thing ethnography” – water odologies, which are intended to be more than just a set A design approach known as ethnographic research of techniques but also distinct ways of behaving, think- involves learning about the people who will use the ing, and experiencing (Gatto & McCardle, 2019). designed things adopting observational methods, and More than ten years ago, the term “multispecies” interviewing procedures. The core idea is that better appeared in the context of biology and ecological sci- products or, at the very least, more pertinent design sug- ences to designate patterns of co-construction of envi- gestions might result from a thorough grasp of people’s ronmental niches and wildlife management (de Ruiter lives, habits, motivations, and difficulties. Anthropolo - et al., 2005). New interpretations of the idea have been gists and ethnographers spend much time interacting made possible by its relatively recent introduction to with and living among the people they study. They engage the field of anthropology. The idea of multispecies offers in various actions to build academic credibility, including a foundation for rethinking the participation of nonhu- observing, taking pictures, recording, taking notes, inter- mans in design and related processes. It also broadens viewing, etc., and producing theories, texts, and publica- the definition of sustainability because investigating envi - tions based on these efforts (Nova & Léchot-Hirt, 2016). ronmental problems from nonhuman viewpoints can Designers utilize this information and ethnographic tools produce different results from those predicted by techno - to generate new concepts, develop ideas, and implement centric approaches (Gatto & McCardle, 2019). them (Van Dijk, 2012). The research discussed in this paper suggests a specula - Nevertheless, beyond traditional ethnographic tive design incorporating the views of humans and plants research, this project was based on “Thing Ethnogra - to create a multispecies reading of humidity and temper- phy”, introduced by Elisa Giaccardi and other authors ature in interior spaces. From a biocentric point of view, describing ethnographic research done with nonhu- all species are part of a system of interdependence. In this mans (Giaccardi et al., 2016). They argue that humans project, based on the concept of co-performance, we are shape objects and that objects likewise shape humans. posing the relationship between plants and human as For that, it is necessary to use anthropological and mainly a symbiotic, mutualistic relationship in which the design methodologies that give both people and objects association created between plants and humans are much an equal voice to recognize their ongoing interaction. stronger than the sum of the parts. This project intends They also claim that the objects that live in our homes to understand how different interspecies relationships exhibit varying levels of dynamism and positioning. and reciprocities could be enhanced and cultivated. In In the project illustrated here, “Thing Ethnography” this context, the terms “interdependent” and “insepara- was made by examining the movement of a water bot- ble” are used to characterize work that acknowledges the tle inside a house and its interconnection with other Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 4 of 17 3.2 Biomimicry strategies objects (Fig. 1). Water was chosen because it is essen- The “Thing Ethnography” and the link between plants tial to both human and nonhuman life. A water bottle is and water inspired the initial concept of building also one of the most active items in our houses because 3D-printed structures embedded with water that would it moves around and inhabits many ecosystems. provide the plant with a more moisturized and cooler “Thing Ethnography” also asserts that observing move - environment indoors. This design requirement was ment exposes how things interact: they exist in com- observed due to the yellowing of some leaves caused by munities of things and behaviors that are occasionally a lack of humidity in some indoor circumstances. Three unique or overlapping. This information invites ques - biomimicry strategies were used in the design process tions regarding their operating environments. The differ - of the 3D-printed structures. ence between our research and Giaccardi’s was that ours The first and second were related to how to retain involved a simple investigation of the movement of a and save water. To collect water, some species of dar- water bottle throughout the day. However, it was intrigu- kling beetles in the Namib desert have unique points ing to learn which items a water bottle regularly interacts and bumps on their wing scales. Air condenses on the with and might eventually build stronger bonds with— tips, forming water droplets that fall off the bumps and specifically, the space between the plant and a water bot - into the beetle’s mouth (AskNature, n.d.). Similar to the tle. Therefore, the project’s initial question was: how to beetle, Warka Tower collects atmospheric water vapor improve the interaction between plants and water? from rain, fog, or dew that condenses on the cold sur- The idea of co-performance is also included in this face of the polyester mesh, creating droplets of liquid research. Kuijer and Giaccardi (2018) assert that co-per- water that flow into a reservoir at the bottom of the formance understands artifacts as having the capacity tower (AskNature, 2017). to learn from and perform with people. From this view- The third biomimicry case study discusses natu - point, co-performance acknowledges the dynamic dif- ral interlocking systems such as the ones existing on ferences in capabilities between people and objects and the birds’ feathers, in which filaments of birds’ feath - stresses the intrinsically cyclical relationship between ers connect with interlocking hooks and work as a the design of the object and its use. In our project, it “natural” zipper. A feather’s central shaft has around was decided to focus on the coexistence of plants and a hundred filaments on either side, each fringed by a humans. Both plants and humans develop a mutualistic hundred additional filaments known as barbules. The relationship within situations where everyone benefits. birds’ beaks comb the disordered and pushed-together Since nonhumans and humans depend on water and feather filaments. The barbules’ hooks reengage like zip light to thrive, enhancing one will inevitably improve fasteners teeth, reestablishing a uniform and smooth the other. According to the theory, co-performance ena- surface (AskNature, 2018). These four biomimicry case bles both species to flourish and fosters more harmony studies were contemplated for the shape, geometry, between people, other animals, and the environment. and material to design the structures for better perfor- Lovelock expands on this idea by claiming that the Earth mance (Fig. 2). is a self-regulating system (Lovelock, 2016). Fig. 1 “Thing Ethnography”: studying the movement of a water bottle inside a house and its relationship with various objects Daneluzz o et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 5 of 17 Fig. 2 In the upper row on the left is a Darkling Beetle, in the center a scanning electron micrograph of the textured surface of the depressed places on Stenocara surface, and on the right an illustration of atmospheric water vapor condensed on the surface of the Warka Tower mesh. In the lower row, the birds’ feathers interlocking system 4 Methodology or break. Hence, the external shape was created using 4.1 Shape and geometry arrangements of triangles because they are stronger than The project’s methodology began with a study based on rectangular shapes and may fold in a non-orthogonal “Thing Ethnography” and how the connection between manner. One technique for Buckminster Fuller to show plants and water would give the plant a cooler atmos- the strength difference between the triangle and the rec - phere and a more moisturized environment in indoor tangle is applying pressure to both. The triangle is far spaces. This requisition appeared because certain indoor more rigid than the rectangle and can withstand pres- plants’ leaves may become discolored due to a lack sure without folding up or becoming unstable. In fact, of humidity in certain situations (Iowa State Univer- it is twice as strong as the rectangle (Buckminster Fuller sity, n.d.). Low humidity is harmful to a lot of people and Institute, n.d.). animals, especially in dry climates. Therefore, the inter - The initial structure was composed of six triangles action between people, indoor plants, and humidity lev- connected to a hexagonal core thanks to a “v” shape join els was investigated. The recommended humidity range design. Half triangles were twisted up and half down in for humans is 30% to 50% (Koster, 2016), but the recom- an alternated fashion (Fig. 3). The connections between mended range for indoor plants is 40% to 60% (Young, them, which were meant to be on the extensions of the 2020). The range of ideal humidity levels for both indoor edges of two triangles, suggested several design typolo- plants and people is between 40 and 50%. According to gies. The structures were 3D printed using Polylactic the idea of co-performance, while designing to improve Acid (PLA). An object interacting with the plant should one’s performance related to humidity levels, the other be made of organic, degradable materials, just like the will immediately increase (Kuijer & Giaccardi, 2018). This plant. In this case, PLA and water. Additionally, they research led to the concept of developing 3D-printed must be lightweight to fit the plant’s ergonomics better. structures for plants that would produce a more moistur- For effective storage and transport, they were produced ized environment and a cooler microclimate inside habi- as flat constructions that could be folded. tats that would be advantageous to both nonhumans and Textures based on Warka Tower (AskNature, 2017) and people. Darkling beetles (AskNature, n.d.) were analyzed to com- The first stage of the design involved deciding on the prehend how water droplets might be kept within a mesh. external shape of the structures, which needed to be But unlike the instances cited earlier, the 3D-printed bio- easy to assemble but also durable enough not to bend mimetic structures wouldn’t be able to collect water from Fig. 3 First 3D printed structures: planar, folded, and other typology showing the connection Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 6 of 17 the air. The suggested structures would act as supports to alone, without and with water, and then applied to the hold and store sprayed water, resulting in a cooler micro- plant (Fig. 6). This first configuration gave some interest - climate for indoor plants, primary users, and humans. ing results. Still, it was decided to explore an alternative Parametric definitions were created with Grasshopper approach to configure the mesh to avoid laminar water and Rhinoceros. Several meshes were tested to calibrate retention, because this configuration is more effective if the pattern and layering. Initially, 2.5D sinusoidal and soaked in water rather than sprayed with water. meander curve patterns were used in overlapping and The second strategy involved calibrating the toolpath non-overlapping layers. Cases with overlapping layers geometry and extrusion settings to transform the pat- performed better, storing water between the waves due tern into a 3D arrangement. In this case, water is kept to surface tension. Testing other meshes with 1, 2, and 3 in the three-dimensional structure as droplets, ideal for layers of 3D-printed PLA revealed that the two-layered sprayed water. The single layer outperformed the others mesh worked the best for this initial experiment (Fig. 4). (Figs. 7 and 8; Table 1). A significant volume of water can The three-layered mesh could contain more water drop - be stored in the one-layer 3D arrangement while keep- lets but was rigid and heavy, while the one-layered mesh ing its strength and lightness, and the ones with two and was insufficient to store enough water droplets. The two- three layers were rather heavy and hardly pliable. Conse- layered mesh was tested on an Epipremnum aureum quently, the one-layer 3D configuration—P4-1—was cho - to verify ergonomic and design aspects, such as ease of sen as the mesh for the final structures (Fig. 8; Table 1). aggregation, adaptability, and the ability to cling to the It was crucial to employ sprayed water throughout the plant (Fig. 5). A first attempt to evaluate the capacity to process since people already use it to spray water on the enhance the water retention and the humidity condition leaves of indoor plants; therefore, it is a common and was conducted measuring humidity level inside a card- interesting method that aids in bonding the two species. board box large enough to contain the plant. Twenty- Using these structures would improve water retention in five structures using the 2.5D patterns were measured this instance. Fig. 4 2.5D mesh structures. In the upper row on the left is the planar configuration, in the center is the folded version, and on the right is the structures’ aggregation. In the lower row, the first and second pictures are the structure with water; the third picture is a close-up of the structures’ interlocking system, and in the last one, the structures arranged on an Epipremnum aureum Fig. 5 2.5D mesh structures arranged on an Epipremnum aureum Daneluzz o et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 7 of 17 Fig. 6 Photos of the 2.5D mesh structures without water (39% of humidity) and with spayed water (53% of humidity); structures arranged around an Epipremnum aureum without water (39% of humidity) and with sprayed water (62% of humidity) Fig. 7 Meshes with 2.5D and 3D configurations Fig. 8 Square samples of the meshes with 3D configuration testing different stratifications and densities After noticing during the first pattern configurations decided that only one typology would allow for multiple (Figs. 4 and 7) that the mesh had undulations on the outer connections. So, the undulations on its outer half were part that might be used to connect the structures, it was emphasized to make the interlocking system more stable, Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 8 of 17 Table 1 Performance chart of the meshes with 3D configurations. The meshes with a dry weight over 2.5 g or critical condition of the interlacement were discarded. The remaining samples were tested to identify the water retention in grams at ten sprays. The ratio between the water retention and dry weight allowed us to calculate a performance factor. The best performance was recorded from the meshes P4-1 and P4-2, and P4-1 was selected for the final structure Daneluzz o et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 9 of 17 and another biomimicry strategy was used related to the of 2.0 g; with three sprays, it passes to 2.3 g; after fifteen birds’ feather interlocking system (AskNature, 2018). sprays, it goes to 3.6 g and stabilizes at 4.1 g after twenty- The interlocking systems of the structures were five sprays (Figs. 11 and 12). designed according to a fractal-like organization and configured considering their performance and grip ability on the plant’s stem. An open-ended possibility of com- 5 Material development – 3D‑printed organic binations was created using an interlocking system of a materials standard module employing the same material and pro- As the project progressed, the possibility of developing an cess used for the mesh (Fig. 9). alternative material for the foldable structures emerged. After the above experiments, the structure’s design was As previously indicated, the structures were 3D-printed condensed to a rhombus made of two triangles instead of using PLA. PLA is a bio-based plastic that is biodegrad- two rhombuses made of four triangles. In the initial tests, able under controlled composting conditions (Cosate the joint that connected the two triangles of the struc- de Andrade et al., 2016), making it a more environmen- ture was part of the sinusoidal weaving pattern. It proved tally friendly choice than oil-based plastics, which could challenging to bend and occasionally broke, endangering take centuries to decompose and create microplastics. the system’s stability. So, the joint on the 3D mesh-based However, in the search for a more integrated system structure was changed to a square wave to facilitate and to avoid relying on external end-life treatments, the bending in various directions. The space between the tri - research moved on using biodegradable, water-soluble angles was lowered in the final configuration to improve organic materials that are at the same time nutrient- stability and continuity between the modules (Fig. 10). rich slow-release fertilizers for the plant. Working with To better accommodate the various types and anatomi- the material system would enable the structures to bet- cal parts of plants, the structures were 3D-printed using ter integrate their end-of-life with a smaller cycle, such the P4-1 mesh in two sizes: a smaller one measuring as the plant’s life and growth. The structures made with roughly 8 cm by 6 cm and a bigger one measuring around these materials might encourage plant growth through 10 cm by 7 cm. The small structure has a dry weight of deeper humidity and nutrient-boosting integration. 1.2 g; with three sprays, it passes to 1.5 g, and after fifteen The study of different types of deficiencies in house - sprays, it stabilizes to 2.8 g. The big one has a dry weight plants set the ground to identify a series of substances the Fig. 9 Interlocking systems are organized in a fractal-like manner and customized based on their performance and grip ability on the plant stem. The center one in the first photo, right on the second and third photos, performed better and was used for the final structure Fig. 10 Various joint kinds and sizes; test for the grip-ability to the plant’s stem; structures with different meshes Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 10 of 17 Fig. 11 In the upper row, the small structure (8 × 6 cm) dry weight and wet weights with 3 and 15 sprays of water. In the lower row, the big structure (10 × 7 cm) dry weight and wet weights with 3 and 15 sprays of water Fig. 12 Comparison of the maximum amount of water retained (g) between the small structure (8 × 6 cm) and the big one (10 × 7 cm). The maximum amount of water retained stabilizes after fifteen sprays for the smaller structure and after twenty-five sprays for the bigger one plants need to have a healthy life. Nitrogen deficiency, for method anticipates using the same syringe mounted on example, could be overcome with coffee grounds, tea, or a three-axis 3D printer for CNC testing of the material. It other nitrogen-rich plants like beans and peas. Potassium is also considered the use of a Liquid Deposit Modeling deficiency, which causes leaves with brown spots, brown (LDM) extruder equipped with a screw system capable or yellow veins, or yellow edges, could be defeated with of regulating the output flow of the material. In this way, banana peels and calcium deficiency by using crushed it is possible to have a rapid flow interruption and good eggs. Other substances, like cinnamon, can act as a nat- retraction control, which is difficult to achieve with the ural insect repellent and be anti-fungal (Kowalska et al., syringe-base extruder. 2020). In addition, it promotes root growth and over- The goal of generating a biodegradable material that all plant health. The research will be further expanded, embeds nutrients led the research to focus on biologi- including different substances that form the nutrient cal polymers, particularly polysaccharides, as they are sources necessary for plant growth, ideally recycling food abundant carbohydrates. Corn starch, cellulose, chitosan, waste and avoiding harmful chemicals. and xanthan were the main substances tested to cre- The material tests were developed considering the use ate different recipes for the printing paste (Fig. 13). This of Direct Ink Writing (DIW) 3d printing, an extrusion- initial series of tests were conducted to evaluate three based method using a highly viscous paste filament at principal aspects. The first regards the preparation pro - room temperature (Chen et al., 2019). This technique is cedure, considering the difficulty of the steps, the tim - utilized for a broad range of liquid or semi-liquid mate- ing, and the easiness of moving the paste to the syringe. rials, such as ceramics, polymers, and food. Therefore, The second concerns the behavior of the paste during the the initial tests were conducted with extrusions using a extrusion, more precisely, the difficulty of the material’s 60 ml piston-based syringe with a nozzle of 2 mm. This ejection and its capacity to keep the shape of the nozzle, Daneluzz o et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 11 of 17 creating a sort of filament from it. The last and probably were conducted by hand to simulate different movements most important aspect regards the curing time when the overlapping the extrusions in meander curves, like the material solidifies. This drying phase was conducted with one tested with the PLA (Figs. 13 and 14). The intention the sample at room temperature, and after 24 h, the paste was to evaluate the reaction of the extruded material and reached a stable consistency. This phase was crucial con - see its capacity to shape patterns with different pressures cerning possible shrinkage that could alter the printed on the piston. The extruded samples were stored for air shape. drying. After 24 h, the samples were stable and ready to Next, it was decided to work with recipes defining test. The shrinkage caused a reduction in section diam - binder and filler, where the binder is one or a combina - eter, but the patterns remained shaped as extruded. They tion of the previously mentioned polysaccharides, and were rigid enough to host the water droplets but brittle the filler constitutes the nutrient for the plant. Four test - when connecting the structures together or to the plant’s ing ingredients were selected as fillers: cinnamon, green stem. tea, coffee, and sunflower seeds. The coffee and cinna - A second series of tests was done to reduce the shrink- mon were already in a very fine powder; the green tea and age and increase the pliability of the dry material, avoid- the seeds were instead processed several times using an ing having a too-delicate module to handle. The initial electric food chopper and a fine mesh strainer to reduce recipes were improved with flour and tested with differ - them to a fine powder. The powder format facilitated the ent ratios of binder/filler. The intention was to under - mixing with the binder, creating a homogeneous paste, stand if adding flour could reduce shrinkage (Wei et al., easy to extrude using the 2 mm nozzle. These initial tests 2022). The granular nature of the filler makes it good for Fig. 13 Green tea and xanthan, green tea and starch, xanthan, sunflower seeds and xanthan, cinnamon and xanthan, cinnamon and starch, green tea and xanthan Fig. 14 Coffee powder and xanthan in the syringe, fresh extrusion, and 24 h after drying and shrinking Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 12 of 17 compression, but it doesn’t work on traction. A series of These tests were made to understand the materiality samples were made using less filler than the binder to and procedures from the ingredients to the final struc - make the final piece more pliable. After several failures, a ture. The goal for the next series of tests is to rational - good result was achieved with a sample showing a limited ize and standardize the procedures. The different fillers shrinkage of 0.1 mm (Fig. 15). The same sample attained could be used separately to have structures that tackle a stable shape that maintained the original configura - specific conditions of plant deficiency. Still, they could tion and enough elasticity to allow connections between also be combined as a general fertilizer providing multi- them, even if it breaks instead of bending under strain. ple substances to the plant. Future tests would use a mix There is room for improvement and to achieve a pliable of these components to evaluate the effects. The cold module, considering that these tests are just in a prelimi- recipes need more investigation and refinement, but they nary stage. have good potential due to their practical preparation. Regarding the biodegradation of these components, Another improvement regards the mechanization of the if they are soaked in water, they can be dissolved within preparation with an industrial dough mixer to control 24 h. Considering that they are meant to be sprayed with the mixing speed. Because of the promising results, the water and because they also absorb the water droplets, recipes with less filler and the addition of cellulose will be the degradation process could take weeks. A prelimi- investigated further and applied to DIW extrusion. nary test was conducted using small samples of the first Certainly, the initial geometry designed for PLA must iteration on an acrylic sheet and sprayed with water regu- be altered according to the properties of the new mate- larly. After a day, it was evident that the water was gain- rial, in both the extrusion behavior, in other words, the ing color and dissolving the substances (Fig. 16). In the capacity to generate the “curly” effect of the mesh, and future, more tests could be conducted using the actual the interlocking system. The natural air dehydration pro - structures. cess demands time and storage space, so a test is planned Fig. 15 Tests cornstarch flour and cellulose binder with a ratio binder-coffee filler 10:1 Fig. 16 Tests to analyze the reaction of the samples with sprayed water Daneluzz o et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 13 of 17 to use an inducted drying process with an oven to guar- understand if the concept of the structures would be antee the same conditions for the samples and to speed effective using PLA 3D printed on desktop machines up the process. and after material tests could be done as an evolu- Another test was conducted with these materials, tion. The next would be to compare the performance in particular using a simple xanthan/coffee mixture between the simple PLA, PLA with a biomaterial coat- spread onto the PLA structures (Fig. 17). This hybrid ing, and just the 3D printed biomaterial. Therefore, this approach uses the fertilizing material in a different way paper was a proof of concept to analyze if the struc- to the previous one as the paste would cover the gaps tures could affect the humidity level around the plant of the mesh. As a positive aspect, this option makes the and its surface temperature. structures reusable for different applications. On the other side, spreading the paste is not easy to handle. 6 Experiments set up and results Although the coated sample demonstrated that it could Different tests were conducted to stage various configu - collect water (Fig. 17), more tests must be conducted rations around the plant itself following the amount of to compare this option’s water retention and degrada- weight the plant could support in each portion. These tion time with the structure 3D printed in biodegrad- arrangements were important because they enabled the able material. creation of an evidence-based design optimized for plant As mentioned above, these tests using water-solu- health and performance. Fifty-five structures using the ble organic materials are promising, but a more accu- P4-1 mesh structures were used —thirty big structures rate investigation is needed to have more reliable (10 × 7 cm) and twenty-five small ones (8 × 6 cm)—were processes and results. For this reason, the project used arranged around a philodendron (Fig. 18). In the first the PLA structures for the performance evaluation of test, the plant with the structures was placed inside a the humidity and surface temperature of the plant. It cardboard box so an indoor hygrometer, Inkbird ITH-20, is important to clarify that firstly it was necessary to could measure the humidity level. Fig. 17 Xanthan/coffee paste distributed in different quantities on the small structure (8 × 6 cm) and the big one (10 × 7 cm). On the right, weight analysis of the small structure (8 × 6 cm) dry weight with paste and wet weight after 5 and 10 sprays Fig. 18 3D mesh structures arranged on a philodendron Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 14 of 17 The initial humidity level was 42%, and after water was After two weeks of use and spraying just the structures sprayed on the sole structures, with no plants inside, the once a day, the yellow and brown parts didn’t regress, but humidity level increased to 55%. When this last step was new discoloration didn’t appear on the leaves of these repeated with the structures arranged around the plant, plants. Also, this system of spraying water is more effi - the humidity level changed to 63% because of the addi- cient in plants from the rainforest that are used to having tional water droplets retained by the plant (Fig. 19). As water droplets over their leaves. indoor plants, besides succulents, need humidity levels Another series of tests were conducted without the from 40 to 60% (Young, 2020), the structures provided cardboard box to verify the humidity levels and surface quite an effective change in humidity. temperature of the plant in a realistic condition. The meas - Also, since plants can co-exist in indoor environments, urements were taken using a common indoor hygrometer, contributing to different humidity levels, the concept of Inkbird ITH-20, and a thermal camera, Thermal Imaging co-performance (Kuijer & Giaccardi, 2018) broadens our IR0018 resolution 35,200 px, in an indoor space at 26˚C. understanding of interdependence with other species, For this series of tests, the P4-1 mesh structures were ana- helping each other to regulate favorable conditions. The lyzed, comparing the small structures (8 × 6 cm) with the number of plants and structures could be a suitable reg- big ones (10 × 7 cm) version without water, with three ulation parameter for an indoor humidity level. sprays of water, and with ten sprays of water (Fig. 20). The Fig. 19 In the upper row, from left to right, structures without water (42% of humidity) and with sprayed water (55% of humidity). Structures arranged around a Philodendron without water (42% of humidity) and with sprayed water (63% of humidity). In the lower row, structures arranged around the plant and close-ups with spayed water (55% of humidity) Fig. 20 In the first row are the small structures, and in the second row are the big ones. From left to right, structures without water, with three sprays of water, and with ten sprays of water with their corresponding thermal images Daneluzz o et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 15 of 17 thermal images help to verify that with more sprays the It shows that the structure is very effective when spray - water distributes better and fills the whole structure. ing a modest amount of water on the plant because it col- The humidity level around the structures and surface lects what would be wasted without it. On the other side, temperature of the structures were measured on a group the thermal analysis highlights the wet area’s expansion, of twenty big structures (10 × 7 cm) and twenty small lowering the structures’ surface temperatures and better structures (8 × 6 cm). Then it was measured again after diffusing the water around the plant (Fig. 23). spraying ten times water on them on a separate surface to avoid having water droplets on the surface of the record-7 Conclusion ing area. A change in humidity was recorded, and the This paper moves the conversation about design toward thermal images show a change in the surface temperature post-humanism, which considers both human and non- of the structures from an initial 26˚C to a minimum of human agents—the latter of which is frequently ignored 23.5˚C (Figs. 21 and 22). in design processes. It begins with an interdisciplinary Humidity levels and surface temperature were meas- debate that integrates research on nonhuman design, ured for the plant without the structure and the plant ergonomics, design performance, and ideal indoor with the structure, starting with a condition with no humidity levels to obtain insight into desired nonhu- water and then testing differences when applied ten, man surroundings. It also describes how a project to twenty, fifty, and hundred sprays of water around the create structures for plants evolved into 3D-printed plant. The difference in the amounts of water sprayed biomimetic structures holding water droplets, arranged was not so much related to a constant humidity increase around a plant in different patterns to raise humid - as it was to the duration of the increased humidity level ity levels in enclosed spaces. The results demonstrate over time. With more sprays, the humidity level stayed that the structures can enhance the humidity level and up for a longer time. A difference in the humidity with decrease the plant’s temperature, granting a better dis- the structures was recorded with lesser sprays (Table 2). tribution of the wet area around the plant. The humidity Fig. 21 From left to right, structures without water (56% of humidity) with ten sprays of water (62% of humidity) and the thermal image that shows a change in the surface temperature of the structures from an initial 26.5˚C to a minimum of 23.5˚C Fig. 22 From left to right, structures without water (56% of humidity), with ten sprays of water (62% of humidity) and their corresponding thermal image showing that initially the surface temperature of the structures was 26.8˚C going to 23.5˚C after approximately 4 min Daneluzzo et al. Architectural Intelligence (2023) 2:9 Page 16 of 17 Table 2 Recording of the humidity level with different amounts of sprayed water. It is visible that after 20 sprays of water, the humidity level stabilizes. However, the time to go back to the initial humidity level increases according to the number of sprays Humidity with 10 Sprays Humidity with 20 Humidity with 50 Humidity with 100 of Water Sprays of Water Sprays of Water Sprays of Water Plant without structure Before 42% - After 46% Before 42% - After 50% Before 42% - After 51% Before 42% - After 51% Increase in Humidity 4% 6% 7% 7% Plant with structure Before 44% - After 50% Before 46% - After 53% Before 46 - After 53% Before 46% - After 53% Increase in Humidity 6% 7% 7% 7% Time to go back to the initial humidity ca. 5 min ca. 10 min ca. 20 min ca. 30 min with or without the structures Fig. 23 In the first row, the Philodendron is without structures, and in the second row, with the structures. From left to right, no water, ten sprays of water, fifty sprays of water. The thermal images show the temperature cooling and the even distribution of wet areas when the structures are arranged on the plant, visible in the last photo on the bottom right level increased by 6%, and the surface temperature of the understandings of the “user” to nonhumans and connecting plant and structures dropped 2 degrees in an open envi it with 3D printing and mass customization makes a new addition to the design profession for contemporary prac ronment. It shows that the structures expand the area of - the plant able to retain water, and in doing so, they pro - titioners. It examines the evidence-based design and the environmental values we aspire to see our society adopt, long the presence of enhanced humidity. The findings imply that taking nonhuman actors into with significant ramifications for present and future design account can result in various design ideas and a mutu guidelines. alistic relationship scenario based on the idea of co-per- Authors have nothing to declare formance because the ideal humidity levels for people The authors have no financial or proprietary interests in any material discussed and plants in indoor spaces overlap between 40 and 50% in this article. (Koster, 2016; Young, 2020). The project’s potential devel Authors’ contributions opment expands the role of the material using nutrient- This declaration is “not applicable”. The author(s) read and approved the final filled biodegradable organic substances, incorporating manuscript. the end-of-life of the structure into the discussion as part of the plant’s growth cycle. Funding No funding was received to assist with the preparation of this manuscript. 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Architectural Intelligence – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 24, 2023
Keywords: Posthuman design; Biomaterials; 3D-printing; Multispecies design; Humidity levels
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