Lea Jihyun Lee's Portfolio

Algae as Habitat

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Algae as habitat

The Cooper Union
Master of Architecture II | Thesis 2016
Critics: Diana Agrest, Michael Young

Project Location: Point Loma, California

Ranging from microscopic marine fungi that is unable to see with naked eyes to large seaweed that is as tall as 260 feet (80 m), this organism called algae appears in a variety of scales/formations that is almost limitless. The project focuses on architectural translation of algae’s reproduction and growth patterns, structures, and morphological qualities by not only looking at the external (macro-scale) but the internal (micro-scale) conditions. In Point Loma, there is the world’s largest kelp bed that has 53 different types of algae, specific to the local. The kelp forests create water columns, vertical structures, and surface canopy. Among those species, Macrocystis Pyrifera, “Giant kelp”, one of the fastest growing organisms in the world, dominates the construction of underwater landscape. The Macrocystis Pyrifera individuals are explored through microscopic level of examination that uncovers the inner properties, resulting in the discovery of the unexpectedness that is only unique to algae among all organisms. Unlike algae’s outer structure/form which looks just like land plants, it has a complete opposite mechanism: no true “leaves, stems, and roots” but “blades, stipes, and holdfast.”

Procystis Fusiformis species is one of many algae species in wide range of scales that is closer to microorganisms’ scale (300 nm (=0.0003 mm)). Despite the size, Procystis Fusiformis’s impact to the ocean environment is vast via its inherent quality of bioluminescence which is a natural light emitted from living organism. The thesis uses algae itself (Procystis Fusiformis) as a tool for growing algae in order to create not only more complex system of flora but also more diverse fauna for macro to microorganisms in sea life by providing habitats through light. By enabling light distribution, it gives possibilities of algae’s growth and also other micro-organisms, fish, etc who use algae as their habitat and that creates more rich and complex ecological system. The intervention is minimal in physical/visual sense (unable to see the structure during daytime) but the impact on the surroundings is measureless.

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