Microcosmic Urbanism
Urban Futures of Microalgae Metabolisms

Spring 2021
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Advised by Sergio Lopez Pineiro




Our cities are significantly controlled by the very small, invisible, tiny substances. These are the ones that define the atmospheric, environmental and climatic conditions in the city, from the oxygen levels in the atmosphere to the chemical composition and quality of water. Ultimately, the tiny substances are the ones that define the health and wellbeing of the population in the urban environment.

The post-carbon and near-future state of East Boston is perceived to be controlled by the metabolic flows of the macro and micro-algae. Alarmed by the increasing carbon levels in the atmosphere, our hopes are now invested in "cyanobacteria", the tiny organisms that are responsible for the presence of oxygen in the air and the flourishing of life on Earth.

Algae appear everywhere in the city. Photosynthetic blooms absorb air pollution and produce oxygen to regenerate breathable air. Artificial pools of microalgae produce another kind of jet fuel that feeds airplanes and biodiesel for other transportation means in the city. Phosphorus and nitrogen-rich contaminated water is purified by green algae cultures before it is recycled back to the water supply. The Red/Blue LED lights that enhance algal photosynthesis overnight along with the bioluminescent algae render a pink and blue fluorescent nocturnal cityscape.

In the later 21st century, sea is rising and algal blooms emerge and expand in the urban landscape. The future ground of East Boston resembles an older geologic state, one that is once again covered by water and tempered by photosynthetic microorganisms. The near-future city of expansive synthetic landscapes now resonates to its micro and macro agents and variants.














Animated Image of East Boston and the Boston Harbor, focused on the movement and dispersal of tiny particles.



World maps illustrating the distribution of tiny particles at a global scale, from the distribution of salt in response to snow, to the application of fertilizers and the ubiquity of nitrogen and phosphorus, and to the wind patterns and pollen particles in the atmosphere.


World maps illustrating the distribution of tiny particles at a global scale, from the distribution of salt in response to snow, to the application of fertilizers and the ubiquity of nitrogen and phosphorus, and to the wind patterns and pollen particles in the atmosphere.

Map of the metropolitan area of Boston, illustrating the projected ares to be flooded (blue) and the existing agricultural fields (green) that could serve as areas for the production of algae and biofuel. 


Land use and projected sea level rise in East Boston (top). The areas that would be most flooded are selected as the places for the cultivation of algae and the production of bio-jet fuel (bottom). 
 






Microalgae jet-fuel park.