Future Venice Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research (AVATAR) Laboratory

Team Members

External Collaborators

  • Martin Hanczyc
  • Christian Kerrigan
  • GMJ
  • European Centre for Living Technology


Future Venice proposes to sustainably reclaim the historic city by growing an artificial limestone reef underneath its foundations and spread the point load over a much broader base. This aims to stop the city from sinking so rapidly into the soft delta soils on which it is founded.

The success of Future Venice is entangled with the development of a ‘soft, wet’ technology that consists of programmable droplets. These are engineered to move away from the light and produce a limestone-like substance, or 'biocrete' when they are at rest. 'Future Venice' is realised when the smart droplets are introduced into the light-soaked waterways where they are expected to move towards the darkened foundations of the city and accrete around the submerged woodpiles that form its foundations. Ultimately, the droplets work together with shell-producing marine creatures to form an artificial reef using dissolved minerals and carbon dioxide.

Importantly, should the environmental conditions change and the lagoon dries out as a consequence of the ecological effects induced by the Moses gates which are a series of 78 hydraulic barriers in the lagoon, designed to physically obstruct the rising Adriatic waters, then the natural computer can re-appropriate its actions. For example, should the waters subside then, instead of growing a reef, the droplets are expected to coat the woodpiles with a protective layer of ‘biocrete’ that stops them rotting when they are exposed to the air. The technology that could realise this project is being experimentally developed with chemist Martin Hanczyc

Aims and Objectives

Future Venice represents speculative and real project that aims to explore the impact of combined, advanced technologies on the character, experience of and liveability of cities.

Specifically it explores:

  1. Lifelike technologies in the construction of architecture.
  2. Procurement, maintenance and operational principles for lifelike technologies.
  3. Spatial paradigms enabled by advanced combined technologies.
  4. Ecological impacts and shifts in notions of sustainability with the advent of lifelike technologies.
  5. Development of multidisciplinary teams in the production of architecture.

Impacts and Benefits

Future Venice has been widely covered in the media including a short film with Red Bull on the design and scientific work behind the emerging technology that underpins the notion of an artificial, programmable, limestone-like reef. Outputs have included:

  1. Publications
  2. Talks
  3. Exhibitions

  • Armstrong, R. (2012) Future Venice. In: W. Myers and , eds. Bio Design: Nature Science Creativity, MOMA/Thames and Hudson, 2012. pp.72-73.
  • Armstrong, R., Spiller, N (2011) ‘Protocell Architecture’, Architectural Design, Volume 81, Issue 2, March/April 2011.
  • Armstrong, R. (2011) Architectural Synthetic Ecologies, Kerb – 19- Journal of Landscape Architecture, Paradigms of Nature: Post Natural Futures, Editors Caitrin Daly, Sarah Hicks, Adrian Keene and Ricky Ray Ricardo, Melbourne Books, Melbourne, Australia, pp.92-98.
  • Armstrong, R. (2011) Self-repairing architecture, Editors, Koert van Mensvoort and Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Actar, Barcelona, Spain, pp.186-189.
  • Armstrong, R., (2010) ‘Living Architecture’, News in Conservation, International Institute for Conservation, No. 20, pp.4-5.
  • Armstrong, R. February 2010. Protocell film installation, group show, Trans Natural, Amsterdam, Protocell film and live demonstration of a chemical ‘Traube cell’ for the Mayor of Amsterdam.
  • Armstrong R. and Toon, M.S. August 2010. Protocell Film, group show, ‘We write this to you from the distant future’, Chelsea Arts Centre, NY, Google HQ.
  • Armstrong R. and Toon, M.S. Protocell Film, group show, curated by Liam Young, The Imaginarium, Berlin. September 2010.
  • Armstrong, R. Da Silva, F. and Raimondeau. M. November 2010. ‘Life in a minute’, ICON, The Gopher Hole, London.
  • Armstrong, R. May 2011. Protocell installation and short film, group show, Synth-ethics, BioFiction festival, Vienna, Austria.
  • Armstrong, R. May 2011. ‘Protocells in Future Venice’ series of photographs, Group show, Global Design New York.
  • Armstrong, R. October 2012. Group show, ‘Living Materials’ series of photographs, Global Design New York University group show ‘Elsewhere Envisioned’, Boom and Leisure, The Building Centre, London.
  • Armstrong, R. May 2013. Protocell installation, Radiant Soil. Espace EDF Paris.

Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research (AVATAR) Laboratory is part of the Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities, University of Greenwich.