The project "GrAB - Growing as Building" takes dynamics and growth patterns from nature and applies them to architecture with the goal of creating a new living architecture. It is located in the cross-over domain of biomimetics and architecture, taking its base from the precursor project BIORNAMETICS.
Also find us under University of Applied Arts, Institute of Architecture, Studio Greg Lynn

- Project

- Schedule

- Workshops

- List of workshops and public events



Project managers: 

Dr. Barbara Imhof, Dr. Petra Gruber

Research institution:

University of Applied Arts

Collaborating institutions:

University of Bath, Biomimetics, Mechanical Engineering, UK 
University of Freiburg, Botanical Garden, Plant Biomechanics Group, DE
 Delft University of Technology, Participatory Systems, NL
Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development, ET
transarch office for biomimetics and transdisciplinary architecture


The project commenced in June 2013 and will terminate in November 2015

The aim of the project GrAB is to develop architectural concepts for growing structures. Three main directions will be investigated: transfer of abstracted growth principles from nature to architecture, integration of biology into material systems and intervention of biological organisms and concepts with existing architecture. Key issues of investigation will be mechanisms of genetically-controlled and environmentally-informed, self-organised growth in organisms and the differentiation of tissues and materials. Research parameters will include for example size, height, speed and properties like the stiffness or flexibility of structures, which are equally important in living systems and in architecture.

The methodology of biomimetic information transfer used will be based on refined methods from previous projects like "Biornametics". Computer simulations re-modelling relevant principles and physical models will be used to understand selected natural phenomena and inform the translation process. Artistic and architectural tools and methods will be jointly used with practices from the natural sciences. A Biolab will provide hands-on experience with growth of organisms. 

The architectural interest lies in the development of structures in a specific environment following an interaction of elements derived from natural pattern formation. To support the transfer of dynamic, growing structures recent advancements in processing technologies like additive manufacturing systems will be looked at and possibly integrated into design concepts and both analogue and digital models. Scales tackled can include materials (also nanoscale), built elements and structures and urban systems.

In the project GrAB – Growing as Building – we intend to take current developments further. Growth will be explored from three perspectives:

The first approach is a biomimetic transfer: biological growth principles will be studied and abstracted for application in architecture. In order to make use of the life sciences information it has to be transferred into a technical, architectural language. Simulations and physical models will be used to mimic and understand processes, and to develop architectural interpretations. Those can include material systems in analogy to those developed by Achim Menges[1] at the University of Stuttgart but in a dynamic way.

Secondly, biological organisms will be integrated in the growth of architecture. Here, the leading question is how biological systems can become integrated material systems in architecture, or can deliver new processing technologies. Ginger Krieg Dosier's work on biocementation is an example of biotechnological processing of building materials. The process behind their innovative new brick is known as microbial-induced calcite precipitation, or MICP, and utilizes microbes on sand to "glue" the grains together using a chain of chemical reactions instead of the conventional energy wasting burning procedure.[2]

Thirdly, the potential of adding organisms to existing architecture will be explored. These are meant as interventions redirecting the functioning of existing structures and modifying their resilience. This perspective questions how layers of living organisms can purify air, strengthen structures and in general integrate new functionalities. 

All perspectives are set in order to bridge the gap between growth in nature and making in technology and connect virtual and physical visions of future architecture. The approach can be seen as a pathway to propagation in technology and ecological design. For growth, as in nature, local resource harvesting and decentralised control are essential, together with a given functionality of the system right from the start. The investigation of the theme will be carried out using also a practical approach by establishing a Biolab that allows hands-on experience and research. The topicality of the project GrAB bears a visionary approach since the theme of transfer growth into architecture is largely unexplored thus the context of arts-based research offers the right environment to blueprint innovative concepts.



Project start



Kick-Off workshop I


Public lecture evening  10.10.2013  see website for video coverage

Workshop II


 architectural visions for GrAB
/input from students of the studio Grreg Lynn

Workshop III


preparing the Biolab, 
“Build your own bioreactor”
/input from students of the IoA

Workshop IV


Experiments for the Biolab

Biolab Start

January 2014

 until summer 2015

Workshop V

February 2014

 online with students' input for Biolab
selection of three student research assistants

Public discussion


“Biological growth into technology - Between fiction and fact”

 Workshop VI


student workshop at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

GrAB exhibition


Angewandte Innovation Laboratory

GrAB symposium


 Angewandte Innovation Laboratory

GrAB publication

November 2015




Structuring working time into core and public workshops and individual phases has in previous projects turned out to be a very fruitful strategy. In GrAB there will be three open workshops with students from the Angewandte and external students who are interested to participate, especially in the first half of the project. Seven internal workshops with the core team including the experts (Vincent, Speck, Vermeulen and others) as appropriate will add to the intensification of the project. Evaluation and synthesis will be done collectively in discussions and reviews, integrating the whole team. On a day-to-day basis studio work will be the main way of developing the project.


Complete list of workshops and public events

 The following list of workshops and public events displays an overview until August 2015


  • Workshop Kick-off (15.7.-19.7.2013): Roles of each team member; visions for architecture blueprinted; Quality Function Deployment (QFD) methodology 
  • Workshop (7.10.-11.10.2013): focus themes for growth principles and role models, envisioned architectural concepts derived from biological principles, planning Biolab;
  • Workshop (14.10.-15.10.2013): student workshop 14 students developed / work prepared by the students was shown as progress of GrAB at the exhibition 
  • Public lecture evening (10.10.2013 – see website for viewing)
  • “Out of the Box”, Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) (30.112013-6.1.2014): spatial installation; accompanying videos 
  • Public discussion (15.12.2013): “Out of the Box”: with Jens Badura, MAK 
  • Workshop 16.12. and 19.12.2014 “Build your own bioreactor” 
  • Workshop (February 2014): to select three students for research assistant positions.
  • Biolab: exhibition was dis-assembled and the main structures of the Biolab were built from reused parts
  • Workshop (13.-14.2.2014): develop experiments for an outdoor lab which is presently being installed at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Vienna Botanical Garden 
  • Workshop (24.-27.3.2014): Biolab; outcome brainstroming
  • Public discussion (25.3.2014): “Biological growth into technology - Between fiction and fact”
  • Biolab workshop (9.5.-10.5.2014): Biolab: experiments Mycelium, slime mould, hydrogels cont.
  • Biolab workshop (19.5.-20.5.2014): Biolab: experiments Mycelium, slime mould, hydrogels, algae
  • Angewandte praxis (22.5.2014): GrAB project presentation at Angewandte to public
  • Biolab workshop (25.-.26.8.2014): review of experiments in lab (Mycelium, Slime mould, Algae, Plants, Hydrogels) and define work ahead
  • Workshop (9.-12.6.2014): student workshop at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Workshop (22.8.-.19.9.2014): online workshop: tasks for Mycelium wall installation, research assistant replacement
  • Biolab workshop (5.9.2014): review of experiments in lab (Mycelium, Slime mould, Algae, Plants, Hydrogels) and define work ahead
  • Biolab workshop (13.-14.10.2014): review of experiments in lab (Mycelium, Slime mould, Algae, Plants, Hydrogels) and define work ahead (transfer possibilities)
  • Workshop (16.-.18.11.2014): with complete GrAB team in Vienna to review the work which has been done so far and define the next steps
  • Public lecture (19.11.2014): GrAB presented upon invitation at CIBSE seminatr "Biomimetic Architecture", Arup, Fitzroy Street, London, UK
  • Biolab workshop (13.1.2015): define final experiments in lab
  • Angewandte praxis (22.1.2015): GrAB project presentation at Angewandte to public
  • Biolab workshop (12.2-13.2.2015): review status of experiments and define next steps
  • Biolab workshop (7.5.2015): try latest recipies for the printer material
  • Workshop (20.-.21.07.2015): with complete GrAB team in Vienna to review the work and consolidate the work for the final summary for the exhibition and the book
  • Exhibition  (12.10.2015 - 7.11.2015): Angewandte Innovation Laboratory, Franz Josefs Kai 3, 1010 Vienna, Austria, OPENING 12.10.2015 - 18.00 hrs
  • Symposium with Prof. Rachel Armstrong, Prof. Thomas Speck, Prof. Petra Gruber and Angelo Vermeulen(12.10.2015 - 18.00 hrs): Angewandte Innovation Laboratory
  • Book launch "Built to Grow - Blending Architecture with Biology"  (06.11.2015 - 18.00 hrs): Angewandte Innovation Laboratory 
  • Panel discussion with Prof. Julian Vincent, Dr. Gabriele Gramelsberger (06.11.2015 - 18.00 hrs): Angewandte Innovation Laboratory



[1]Institute for Computational Design, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Stuttgart,