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Lichens Symbiotic Structures


Project Description

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INVESTIGATION Growth Forms Crustose Foliose Fruticose Makrolichens

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Properties Multiplication Mutations Coloration

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DESIGN Symbiotic Structures Patterns Materials Hybrids

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Environments Dessert Savanna Rainforest Tundra

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Hybrids Parmelia Ramalina Cetraria Cladonia

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Project Description

Lichens are the symbiotic organisms between fungi and algae, which perform as the miniature ecosystems. Colonies of lichens are spectacular in appearance, dominating the surface of a visual landscape by different species scattered together. 6% Earth‘s land is covered in lichen with 20,000 species. Furthermore, lichens are very important environmental pollution indicators. Learning about their importance in bio-integrated design, but usually being underrated and transparent elements of our environment, I was motivated to work on a broader and interdisciplinary field of research. Particularly interesting I find lichens self- organising form diversity and mutations as well as multiplication and adaption to almost any surface even in the most extreme environments. Symbiotic co-existence of different elements is interpreted as hybrid structures that represent nature-inspired design possibilities. My intention was to study natural lichen’s formation and to introduce it as a form and material symbiosis in architectural design. During the process of research, I was working on parallels between natural and digital, questioning ideas and work possibilities influenced by new media tools. First of all, I did a collection of macro photos of lichens during the field research in different geographical locations. Afterwards, I was analysing the different form features and interpreted it digitally. The goal of this research was to enhance the relation between natural and man-made environment.

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Makro lichen

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Growth Forms

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Growth Forms Crustose

Crustose lichen forms a thin crust closely to the substrate: soil, rock, tree bark, making separation from it impossible without destruction. They are highly variable in anatomy. The surface of crustose lichens is characterized by branching cracks that periodically close in response to climatic variations such as alternate wetting and drying regimes. Crustose lichens have the lowest rates of growth, most of the time having a radial shape where the centre is more likely to be dying.

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Crustose lichen

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Visualisation

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Crustose lichen

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Visualisation

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Powdery lichen

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Visualisation

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Crustose lichen

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Visualisation

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Crustose lichen

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Growth Forms Foliose

Foliose lichens have a leaf-like structure and are attached to their surface by root-like rhizines. They are the most common types that grow on the trunks of trees or on rocks in the shady woods. They’re usually grey-green and form more or less circular colonies. Growth takes place at the margins, and these tend to be lobed.

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Foliose lichen

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Visualisation

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Foliose lichen

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Visualisation

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Foliose lichen

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Visualisation

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Foliose lichen

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Visualisation

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Jelly lichen

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Growth Forms Fruticose

Fruticose lichens have a fine, round, hair-like structures and are loosely attached to rocks and trees. The main body of the lichen is either erect or hanging, and commonly highly branched. They grow very slowly and will often occur in extreme habitats such as on tree barks, on rock surfaces and on soils in the Arctic and mountain regions. A light thallus colour is associated with lower light conditions within the growing environment.

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Fruticose lichen

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A club lichen, this species is typically found on acidic soil on rotting wood, moss or humus that covers tree bases. Its definitive feature is that it terminates in a flaring cup that when touched will release powdery soredia.

Visualisation

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Fruticose lichen

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Visualisation

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Fruticose lichen

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Visualisation

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Fruticose lichen

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Growth Forms Makrolichens

Any lichen that has a large thallus is called macrolichen. Here, „macro“ and „micro“ do not refer to size, but to the growth form. Some fruticose lichens are very minute and crustose thalli can extend across immense areas. However, most commonly fruticose and foliose lichens are referred to as macrolichens. Particularly interesting I find the cup-lichens that have mushroom alike vertical shapes.

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Makro lichen

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Visualisation

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Makro lichen

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Visualisation

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Makro lichen

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Properties

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Properties Multiplication

Many lichens reproduce asexually- by a piece breaking off and growing on its own. Many lichens break up into fragments when they dry, dispersing themselves by wind action, to resume growth when moisture returns. It creates a diversity of shapes at the surrounding area forming an intricate visual landscape. Structures involved in sexual reproduction often appear as discs, bumps, or squiggly lines on the surface of the thallus and create very exotic structures.

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Variety of lichens shaping the tree branch

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Visualisation

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Abundance of lichens

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Visualisation

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Variety of lichen growth forms

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Properties Mutations

Local reproduction of lichens creates a great variety of species sharing the same surfaces. It is common that few species collaborate and create metamorphic forms that are never the same. Radial shape lichens break the symmetry with other species invading. Lichen growth forms often follow the shape of the substrate and it changes as the tree bark cracks.

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Some features of lichen can not be seen with the naked eye

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Visualisation

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2 types of lichens growing together

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Visualisation

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Lichens growing together

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Properties Coloration

Lichens come in many colours. Colonies of lichens may be spectacular in appearance, dominating much of the surface of the visual landscape. Changes of colour depend on when a lichen is wet or dry. The underside of lichens often has a different color from the top side. In general, lichens grow really slow and therefore the colour differences appear because of the environmental influences, creating gradients of various colour tones.

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Lichens can be found in a variety of colors

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Visualisation

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Cup Lichens in gradient colors

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Visualisation

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Cyanobacteria create typical dull green color

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Symbiotic Structures

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Symbiotic Structures Patterns

The collaboration of different components creates diversity. Lichen symbiotic appearance results in many self-organising patterns. I simulated abstract 3d shapes with various patterns interrelating and interpreting new forms. It represents a nature-inspired variety of shapes and possibilities that one element can gain.

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Combination of patterns

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Combination of patterns

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Combination of patterns

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Symbiotic Structures Materials

Different species of lichens have a different consistency. Their features range from thin to thick, soft to hard, shiny to matt. Also, a variety of colours and gradients create even more distinct character. All these features could be interpreted as different qualities presented by diverse materials.

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Combination of materials

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Combination of materials

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Combination of materials

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Symbiotic Structures Hybrids

Symbiotic co-existence is interpreted as hybrid structures that represent nature-inspired design possibilities. Lichens are intricate organisations that share and exchange various features to create the functional unity. The idea of collaboration between different elements could be translated to architectural design. In lichens, fungi represent structural part and alga- the living part. The gradient of conditions is the key definition of hybrid structures.

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Combination of forms, patterns, materials

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Combination of forms, patterns, materials

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Combination of forms, patterns, materials

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Environments

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Environments

Lichens are abundant growing on bark, leaves, mosses, on other lichens or hanging from branches. They are fascinating creatures because of ability to adapt even in the most extreme environments- from sea level to high alpine elevations. Different kinds of lichens have adapted to survive in the arctic tundra, hot and dry deserts, rocky coasts or toxic slag heaps. They can live even inside of the solid rock, growing between the grains. Every type has certain required conditions to grow, which is related to moisture levels, sunlight, temperature or species of trees that they use as the substrate. Theoretically, if nature is so sensitive to the environment, then architecture should also. Hereby, I made 5 illustrations and short fictional stories to present the diversity of lichen growth in different habitats like the rainforest, tundra, taiga, savanna and desert, emphasizing the variety of conditions they have to adapt to. Even that some of them look similar, the diversity is present in colour, size or quantity.

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Desert

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Savanna

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Savanna

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Rainforest

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Rainforest

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Tundra

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Tundra

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Hybrids

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Hybrids

Hybrids represent a spectacular diversity of lichen species scattered around different environments. I chose 4 genus of macrolichens: Parmelia, Ramalina, Cetraria and Cladonia. Each of them separately shares over 200 species. My goal was to showcase and bring attention to the abundance of these natural surface structures and their form variety. These visualisations are representations of hybrid conditions: part nature, part architecture; part figural, part abstract; part realistic, part fictional.

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Lichens. Symbiotic Structures  

It is a research project in experimental architecture about lichen's symbiotic properties that could be applied in architectural design

Lichens. Symbiotic Structures  

It is a research project in experimental architecture about lichen's symbiotic properties that could be applied in architectural design

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