GANPhysarum: ecoLogicStudio explains how a kind of mold can create entire cities
How can a slime mold shape the future of an entire city? That was the question that tormented Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, founders of ecoLogicStudio and curators of a project that hopes to provide a first tentative answer to the question. “GAN-Physarum: the digital drift” is the name chosen by Poletto and Pasquero to present their project, currently open to visitors to the Center Pompidou in Paris within the global framework of “Networks-Worlds”. This collective exhibition, which opened its doors in February and will end on April 25, brings together some sixty artists, architects and designers to stimulate their reflection on the notion of network in our societies.
To make GAN-Physarum a reality, the ecoLogicStudio team used artificial intelligence, training a machine learning algorithm so that its behavior and development mirrored that of a type of living slime mold. They then consulted bespoke software, asking him to visualize the future of an autonomous, bio-digital Paris based on its current conditions, with a particular focus on its green and blue spaces. Marco Poletto explains the initiative as follows: “With DeepGreen, we envision a self-sustaining bio-digital city, made for human and non-human citizens and planned by a new form of in-human intelligence.”
As for the project itself, ‘GAN-Physarum: the digital drift’ – originally commissioned by the Center Pompidou in 2020 – is pragmatically composed of an AI video and a selection of bio- painting. In addition to these artifacts, it also presents another video called ‘DeepGreen: Urbansphere’, the purpose of which is to show the application to a series of projects intended to develop the GAN-Physarum algorithm which were launched in 2019 by ecoLogicStudio in collaboration with UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme.
Each of the pieces exhibited at the Center Pompidou makes it possible to stimulate reflection on the role of the network in our societies, its omnipresence and its dematerialization. As such, the network is at the heart of technological changes and various social issues: surveillance, atomization of the individual, networks of actors and the emergence of a global urban sphere.
“In this context, we are witnessing the unfolding of a post-natural history, a time when the impact of artificial systems on the natural biosphere is certainly global, but their action is no longer entirely human. Cities like Paris have become co-evolving networks of biological and digital intelligence, semi-autonomous synthetic organisms.explains Claudia Pasquero, who is also a professor of biodigital architecture at Universität Innsbruck and University College London.
But where does the particular name of the project come from? ‘GAN’ is an acronym for Generative adversarial network: in other words, an algorithmic architecture capable of generating models using deep learning. Indeed, this powerful form of artificial intelligence has been trained by ecoLogicStudio’s bioinformatics design team to “behave” like a Polycephalic Physaruma unicellular slime mold.
This formed GAN-Physarum was then put on a “computational diversion” through the streets of Paris. Thus, the video generated by artificial intelligence succeeded in showing how to decode and reinterpret the models of the contemporary urban fabric of the French capital. Ultimately, what we see is a transition from the original morphological order to an alternate distributed network. Et voilà: the wet, blue-green and living infrastructure of the city of the next millennium appears before our eyes.
Project team: Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto www.ecologicstudio.com
with Greta Ballschuh, Sheng Cao, Alessandra Poletto
with Joy Boulois, Korbinian Enzinger, Oscar Villarreal
with Thole Althoff, Michael Brewster, Xiaomeng Kong, Stephan Sigl, Eirini Tsomoukou, Lixi Zhu
Academic partners: Synthetic Landscape Lab at the University of Innsbruck, Urban Morphogenesis Lab at Bartlett UCL