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Coral Carbonate: Architecture Beyond the Built Environment
Silver prize in universal design, Honorable mention in responsive design

Designer: Alex Schofield; Company: Objects and Ideograms, a design workshop


The footprint of our existence has had catastrophic impacts on ecosystems globally. In particular, coral reefs are being decimated by human-induced conditions quicker than they can recover and grow. This project exhibits novel application of a 3D printed coral substrate, in form of the material substrate Calcium Carbonate, as targeted intervention and artificial restoration for aquatic ecosystems. More specifically, Calcium Carbonate is 3D printed to mimic materiality which makes up the hard structural home of coral’s living polyp inhabitants. This unique material development has led to the invention of material methodology in support of a wide range of ocean life ecosystems by fabricating and reseeding a 3DP calcium carbonate scaffold. The 3DP calcium carbonate is currently being tested as structures, tiles, and frags used to further test live applications in support of artificial coral restoration, but also shows promise as a biological substrate for the growth of other ocean life. The ultimate goal of such an intervention is the cultivation of a healthy and biodiverse aquatic ecosystem through adaptation and repair of physically damaged environments caused by anthropogenic sources. This project and application goes beyond simply a substrate to seed and supplement the growth of coral, but creates a link between our anthropocentric built environment and surrounding natural ecosystems. What once was a hard edge, being our coastlines and interface with water bodies, is now being explored as a softer edge as we reconsider our interface between the world beyond buildings. This project has applications in coastline infrastructure, aquaculture, and bioremediation as substrate and surface to foster growth of aquatic organisms. Alternative materials for underwater fabrication, such as concrete and other land based materials of the built environment, often leach undesirable byproducts and contribute a large carbon footprint in the process of their own production. However, new techniques of Carbon capture and sequestration from our atmosphere, essentially removing harmful CO2 from our environment, can also create a renewable source of Calcium Carbonate while helping diminish our growing CO2 pollution. By combining design and material innovation with the rapid and customizable fabrication potential of 3D printing, this unique application for ocean life conservation can be readily deployed at various scales in any unique environment. This project’s origins and inventions come in direct response to a world in crisis. We are seeing the world change in such a way as reflected from our modus operandi as humans who have little considered our impacts. This project most importantly operates at the intersection of both human and aquatic needs, a space seldom considered within construction of the built environment. While we may be land dwelling mammals, we still have great impact on ecosystems we may never visit or see and thus we must consider our intentional design and construction of a built environment that is equitable to all living organisms on this planet. This project’s methodologies of computational design and fabrication utilizing CaCO3 provide various benefits for a shift from an anthropocentric built environment to that of a symbiotic one.