Building as Being


The Building as Being project looks at building in the widest sense of the word, approaching it as ordering elements (atoms, molecules, bricks, words, feelings) into shapes (molecules, crystals, bodies, houses, cities, minds). Thereby, an element can form a shape and a shape can become an element, whereby unexpected and complex new forms emerge and dissolve from interacting components within enviroments.

Building as Being explores building from a geological, chemical, biological, artistic and philosophical perspective: what does it mean to build today, how did building evolve over time and how shall we build in the future?

This project starts with the etymology of the word building, coming from the Old-English byldan, ‘constructing a house’, derived from the Proto-Indian European bhu-, ‘to dwell’ with the root bheue-, ‘to be, exist, grow’.

Interestingly, in our contemporary use of the word, the verb building often implies a constructor, someone who builds, and often also an architect, someone who designs what will be built.


However, when we ponder over the Proto-Indian-European root of building, building as growing and being, we can question if this inherent meaning is lost, or is essentially still present.

Do buildings, cities and infrastructures always require constructors, architects and masterplans, or can they grow without humans as ultimate controllers? Would it be possible to build like a shell and grow our houses out of seawater? Can we build like coral reefs, whereby organisms and geochemical cycles interact with- and sustain each other?

Interactive Building Experiments

With Building as Being, I investigate the possibility of building as growing, existing and being, in collaboration and in dialogue with IAS researchers, Waag and the Self-Organizing Matter group, artists and architects.

With my Interactive Building Experiments I aim to grow new architectural shapes and materials through the interaction of unexpected actors, covering a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Actors involved in these multiscale experiments are non-living materials (e.g. minerals, metals), organisms (scientists, dancers, human and non-human architects, trees, plants, bees, oysters, wasps, spiders, ants), organismal residues (e.g. breath, human fluids, organic materials and biopolymers such as plant fibers, lignin, chitin) and energy sources (e.g. sunlight, songs and other soundwaves, gravity, bodily warmth, lightning).


Crystallising Blobs of Order

In the series shown here, I'm mixing bodily fluids with minerals, whereby shell-like structures and coral reef-like landscapes are grown through the interactions of dissolved minerals and body cells, such as blood cells, sperms cells and breast milk.

With this project I question if these cells become unicellular again once they leave the human body. And I like to be surprised the 'biomineral shelters' they form.

I'm intrigued by how the growth and dissolution of crystals in solutions can be compared to other growth and decay systems, where shapes 'temporarily' precipitate from an environment, such as individuals within communities, organisms within ecosystems, bodies within universes, thoughts within minds.

Sperm Shells

Building as Being is part of my ArtScience Fellowship at the Uva-Institute for Advanced studies, fellowship at Waag and guest researcher position at the Self-Organizing Matter group (AMOLF).


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