The human body is both delicate and resilient; a human thigh bone alone is stronger than concrete and can withstand up to 2,000 pounds of force. Ligaments and muscles form webs of tension that hold a body together while permitting it to move. It was only a matter of time until someone finally realized that our dynamic interior frame could be reversed and magnified, forming an intellectual, architectural exoskeleton.
Tom Benard at L’ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris has gone beyond designing a simple organic shelter; his Organ of Evolution project extends as a fully functioning, biosynthetic research building. While contemporary architecture has indeed become increasingly fearless with provocative lines, we rarely ask what the structure is worth. Benard’s goal was to integrate utility into the architectural frame itself, rather than concede it as yet another inert shield from the elements. The bone structure frame would be 3D-printed onto biodegradable polymers using stems cells, and interlaced with biomechanical adaptive “organs” or bioreactors that culture cells. The building itself would be an integral component of each experiment.
Benard actualized his design through an impressive prototype, preserving the geometric stability while deviating from the stiff lines of generic architecture. The design invokes a cohesion through the necessary participation for sustainment: an interdependence between the scientist and structure is necessary for both structural integrity and scientific discovery. Any problem with the structure serves as both a headache and a gift; the failure of a single piece may endanger the whole system, as is the case in reality, but it also provides a learning experience on how to improve and adapt. This forces constant consideration not just of the individual pieces, but also of the structure as a whole.
The end goal of Benard’s osteal structure is to further regenerative medicine and thus improve the human condition by synchronizing biology, technology, and architecture.