Biomaterials in Le Magasin Électrique’s Eco-friendly Workspace

June 30, 2023

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By 

Shan Arcega

Overseas, the use of Biomaterials in architecture has become an interesting topic for conversation. In the face of climate change, using materials like plants, animals, and even fungi for architecture has become new options that make buildings a lot more interesting and sustainable at the same time. Over at Arles, France, the LUMA Arles Cultural Center just inaugurated the opening of their new research and design laboratory, Atelier LUMA.

Le Magasin Électrique
Le Magasin Électrique is a historical building in the Parc des Ateliers. Image by Adrian Deweerdt.
As this is a historical building, old elements have been retained. Image by Joseph Halligan.
Inside, one would be greeted by the laboratories for its circular design studio Image by Joseph Halligan.
The view from Le Magasin Électrique’s mezzanine. Image by Joseph Halligan.

Alongside BC Architects & Studies and Assemble Studio, they transformed the historical Le Magasin Électrique into an experimental hub and made use of sunflowers, salt, and algae during its renovation. According to Atelier Luma, there are nearly 20 unique building materials that were used throughout the project. Each item was found from across the region and were developed to suit a specific need–from securing the structure to even the acoustics, these biomaterials were developed to adapt. These biomaterials though all had to stick to the criteria that they weren’t resources to be used as a food source. 

Related read: Mental Health and Architecture: Promoting Users’ Wellbeing Through Biophilic Designs

These plaster prototypes were stained with algae. Image by Laurens Bekemans.
Rammed earth walls line the interiors of Le Magasin Électrique. Image by Maria Lisogorskaya.
The Atelier LUMA garden has a phyto-purification basin just outside. Image by Adrian Deweerdt.

Among the many strange materials used, the architects and designers made use of sunflower fiber–using them as materials for bioplastic plug sockets and wall and acoustic panels. Door handles meanwhile are made from salt crystals, bathroom tiles are made with algae (which were also used to help filter and recycle wastewater from the building), and the rammed earth walls and external plaster are made with demolition waste. 

Related read: Frugal Innovation Manifested In Hippo Farm’s Bioclimatic Dorms

Though the strange materials for this building could be replicable and used in buildings throughout the region and even farther, Atelier LUMA explained that shipping these materials overseas or making them replicable at scale isn’t their aim. After all, each country has its own climate and materials that can or cannot be used. What is replicable, however, is the use of biomaterials in these buildings.  

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