Physarum for architectural inspiration

Richard Mayne, Matthew Hynam

A collaborative project with biomedical scientist Richard Mayne that has started to explore the possibility of using slime mould to inspire creative moves within the architectural design process. The project is by no means novel and the idea of slime mould being able to stimulate creativity has already been written about with many artists pontificating about the complex network patterns it forms when looking for food sources. Within this study we aim to explore the practical application of slime mould networks being used as a tool to develop initial architectural sketches. Slime mould is repelled by direct light and grows towards sources of chemical attractants. In this way slime mould can perceive and make decisions.

Within this test a series of existing sketch scaled floor plans were created to understand how the slime mould might interact and inhabit them. The sketch plans were cut out of clear and solid Perspex to allow the slime to grow within the confines of the various rooms. Depending on the route the organism took, to get to the attractants, the sketch could be read in different ways. Whilst this is obviously a very literal experiment where one might see the replacement of human occupation with slime the output from the study produced some interesting results and helped the architect understand how slime mould makes unbiased network decisions to survive.

The potential for developing this research further would ideally see it used to overcome creative blocks or, if re-designing the building as per Physarum’s route, generate a “bio-designed house”. Future test could explore the potential of using slime beyond the confines of a 2 dimensional sketch. Potentially the slime mould’s behaviour could be approximated with an algorithm and be included in a BIM package where in real-time multiple people could influence the outcome by adjusting the attractants and repellents.