DUNE (AA Thesis 07-08)

»A vast 3D printer made of bacteria crawls undetectably through the deserts of the world, printing new landscapes into existence over the course of 10,000 years...«

- Geoff Manaugh/BLDGBLOG

A 6,000km long stretch of solidified sand dunes is proposed, which will architecturally support the Green Wall Sahara initiative: 24 African countries coming together to plant a shelterbelt of trees right across the continent, from Mauritania in the west to Djibouti in the east, in order to mitigate against the encroaching desert.

Sand is solidified into a habitable structure that protects from sand; a permacultural anti-desertification network made from the desert itself.

A particular microorganism, Bacillus Pasteurii, is flushed through the dunescape (an analogy could be made to an oversized 3d printer), which causes a biological reaction that turns the sand into solid sandstone. The initial reactions finish within 24 hours; it would take about a week to saturate the sand enough to make the structure habitable. The bacteria are non-patogenic and die in the process of solidifying the sand. This part of the project relies upon research carried out by professor Jason De Jong's team at the Soil Interactions Laboratory, UC Davis (http://www.sil.ucdavis.edu/people-jason.htm), as well as conversations with professor Stefano Ciurli at the University of Bologna.

The architectural form is derived from tafoni, a cavernous rock structure that formally ties the project back to notions of aggregation and erosion. These forms are porous and have a large surface area.

The temperature difference between the interior of the solidified dunes and the exterior dune surface makes it possible to create nodal points that could both support water harvesting and inhabitable thermal comfort zones. In this way, we can start 'growing' controlled oases in the desert, and stop the sand from pushing people away from their homes and villages, which, in the worst-case scenario, may lead to huge migration floods, food shortages, wars, and other horrible situations.

In 2008, »DUNE – Arenaceous Anti-desertification Architecture« won first prize (USD15,000) in the Holcim Awards 'Next Generation' category for Africa/Middle East (http://www.holcimfoundation.org/T865/A08AMng11.htm).

The scheme has also been covered extensively in the press: