Plant Fibers in Architecture - A Case Study from the Western Amazon

Lecture | March 21 | 12-1 p.m. |  UC Botanical Garden

 Botanical Garden

Constructions in inundation risk zones largely impacted by Climate Change, including the Western Amazon Basin, have traditionally incorporated natural materials. These lightweight enclosures often made with agrowaste including plant fibers as palm leaves have proven largely efficient for climate comfort. However, during the twentieth century, these constructions became incrementally supplanted or juxtaposed with industrial technologies including metals and concrete panels and blocks leading to critical environmental impact and loss of quality of life. In response, new technologies that can reclaim the cultural and building performance value of traditional constructions made with natural plant fibers are being investigated. This discussion will present pioneering research on the potentially transformative role of additive manufacturing for reclaiming fundamental values of agrowaste construction in remote regions heavily impacted by Climate Change. Professor Gutierrez will present her ongoing research situated in Leticia, in the Western Amazon, as a framework to address this inquiry. The case study discussion will center in how 3D printing can potentially shift our ability to locally source and produce materials into reclaimed complex geometries of traditional systems made from natural waste compounds that work in synergy with the natural environment and are economically competitive.

Presenter Bio

Maria Paz Gutierrez, Associate Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley, is an architect and researcher focused on nature and multifunctional material systems design that address key 21st century environmental and socioeconomic challenges. In 2008, she founded BIOMS an interdisciplinary research initiative intersecting architecture and science to integrate principles of design and biophysics from the nano to the building scale. Her work focuses on exploring the biophysical and cultural implication of functional natural materials and agricultural waste through multiscale additive manufacturing. She is the recipient of various research grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, DOE, and EPA in the area of sustainable building systems innovation. Her research is published in prominent architectural and scientific journals including Science and Scientific Reports (Nature) and exhibited in venues such as the Field Museum, Chicago. Her recent awards include the 2014 Buckminster Fuller Award (semifinalist) and the prestigious 2010 Emerging Frontiers of Research Innovation by the US National Science Foundation. Gutierrez is a Fulbright Nexus Scholar and has served as an appointed Senior Fellow of the Energy-Climate Partnership of the Americas by the US Department of State from 2011-16. She has two provisional patents and a forthcoming book Regeneration Wall (Routledge Press).

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