Flower Street BioReactor/Public Art Installation for DCA

Tom Wiscombe: our point of departure for this project was to engage the nascent cultural paradigm shift from thinking about energy as something which comes magically from distant sources to something which can be generated locally in a variety of ways. our goal was not, however, to undertake an engineering experiment, or to simply express material processes, although this is certainly one dimension of the project. our primary goal was to create a sense of delight and exotic beauty around new technologies by decontextualizing them and amplifying their potential atmospheric and spatial effects.

The project is an aquarium-like bioreactor inserted into the facade of the building (our given site), which contains green algae colonies that produce oil through photosynthesis. The aquarium is made of thick transparent acrylic, molded to create the intricate relief on the front. This relief tracks along with and supports an internal lighting armature which is based on the Bio-feedback Algae Controller, invented by Origin Oil in Los Angeles in July of 2009. This new type of bioreactor uses tuned LED lights which vary in color and intensity to support algae growth at different stages of development, maximizing output. According to Origin Oil, “this is a true bio-feedback system… the algae lets the LED controller know what it needs as it needs it, creating a self-adjusting growth system.” At night, when this system intensifies, it generates a simultaneously urban and jungle affect: glittery reflections on acrylic combine with an eerie élan vital of glowing algae.

A solar array, used to collect energy during the day, is spirals and winds up into the branches of an adjacent tree, jungle-style. This energy will be stored in a battery and used during the night to run the various systems.

Flower Street Bioreactor/Public Art Installation for DCA
Los Angeles, California, 2009
Client: Dept. of Culture and the Arts, LA (DCA)
Building Type: Public Art Installation/ Bioreactor
Principal: Tom Wiscombe
Project Team: Bin Lu, Chris Eskew, Ryan Macyauski
All pictures Copyright © 2009 EMERGENT

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