Maria Aiolova: ONE Lab was founded as a non-profit independent group concerned with research and education in the synthesis of design and technology. It began as a core of young architects, engineers, biologists, ecologists, robotics experts, industrial designers, urban agriculturists, physicists and media artists all seeking alternatives to traditional forms of teaching and professional practice. They included Mitchell Joachim, Oliver Medvedik, Ellen Jorgensen, Alex Felson, and Vito Acconci, among others. Through our interactions, we discovered the need for an interdisciplinary pedagogical zone, where students can freely inquire, discuss, conduct experiments and take actions that have a positive effect on the global community.
In what ways is the approach to instruction in the ONE Lab different from other design studios or workshops?
ONE Lab offers a new means of design inquiry where students will actively use the tools and technologies of the life sciences. In a period of a few weeks in the summer, the participants learn the basics of biotechnology, including genetic engineering, tissue culturing, and cloning; how to grow materials for design, including trees, plants and mushrooms; and they are introduced to computational scripting and modeling for controlled growth. Students have access to a bio-laboratory, specialized equipment and expertise. More importantly, we create an extremely charged interdisciplinary knowledge zone to facilitate free interaction and cross-pollination of ideas.
ONE Lab participants range from design, science and art students to young and mid-career professionals from all around the world. They are attracted by the possibilities to experiment freely and break out of the silos of their own academic institutions or professional practices. The students are asked to rethink what is salubrious about the city, in both its forms and its life. Projects developed vary from movable urban farms and structural walls grown from living trees and mycelium to phytoremediation cells for filtering grey and black water and phosphorescent bacteria based paint.
One group of students started their own nonprofit organization that works with inner city residents in Chicago, teaching them how to construct movable farms and concentrate sunlight. Another student, Eduardo Mayoral, received this year's Holcium Award "Next Generation" for his project, Bioluminescent Devices for Zero-Electricity Lighting, which originated in our lab under the supervision of Dr. Oliver Medvedik.
Architecture schools have to comply with NAAB requirements, which are slow to change or adopt new trends. The study of biology and synthetic biology, on the other hand, is racing ahead and essential to bridging the gap between designers and the natural world.
I do, but that will take some time. Architecture schools have to comply with NAAB requirements, which are slow to change or adopt new trends. The study of biology and synthetic biology, on the other hand, is racing ahead and essential to bridging the gap between designers and the natural world. It also offers a wealth of new possibilities and creative solutions to the current global environmental crisis. Independent schools like ONE Lab have the ability to create a curriculum inclusive of biotechnology that enables us to address the significant problems of our time and open us up to the possibilities of self-sustenance, organic growth and perpetual change.
The whole idea of ONE Lab was born in the Metropolitan Exchange (MEx) Building, which is comprised of an immensely diverse group of companies and individuals, but we have in common our creativity, productivity, and professionalism. We benefit from the inspiring energy and camaraderie of our shared spaces. Terreform ONE was the first architecture practice to build a biology lab which has evolved into educational infrastructure shared with Genspace, another nonprofit dedicated to providing wider access to biotechnology. For ONE Lab students, lab activity in such a setting is invaluable. Additionally, we never have to look far to recruit faculty—more than fifty percent of our instructors this summer were from MEx Building organizations.
New York is a city of water. I'd love to see the water and the waterfront of New York City become a truly exciting public space integrated with energy production, water cleansing, and habitat creation. Last summer, we ran a competition, Water as the Sixth Borough, focused on New York and its waterways, concentrating on recreational space, public transportation, local industry, and native environment in the city. So if I were King for a day, I would open all 600 miles of the waterfront to the public, create a soft edge, and implement some of the winning designs.
We are working on turning ONE lab into a year-round school and a degree-granting institution. We are considering the options to do this independently or in conjunction with an established academic institution. We are also working on a Brooklyn Navy Yards project called 'Super Dock". Using the principles of industrial ecology, we propose that the underused dry docks become a vibrant manufacturing and incubator space, which will address community needs, public access, storm runoff, water filtration and rising currents.
Maria Aiolova is an architect and urban designer based in New York City. She co-founded Terreform ONE and Planetary ONE with Mitchell Joachim and directs the ONE Lab School for Urban Ecology and the One Prize Design and Science Award. Most recently, Maria was faculty at Pratt Institute, the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design and Parsons the New School for Design. She has been honored with the Viktor J. Papanek Social Design Award and Zumtobel Group Award for Sustainability and Humanity. Ms. Aiolova received her MAUD from Harvard University, B.Arch. from Wentworth IT, Dipl.-Ing. from the Technical University of Vienna, Austria and Sofia, Bulgaria.