WaterLilly is a family of experimental prototypes and installations conceived by Cesare Griffa to act as photobioreactors to grow micro-algae within the built environment. They are the staring point of a larger process that continues through the transformation of the algal biomass into algal-ink collected in 200 cc jars (LillyJars), and ends up in the creation of algal drawings (PaperLillies). The entire process is a celebration of human ingenuity and the claim for a collaborative design practice in which humans and nature celebrate a love affair, instead of practising a suicide design strategy in which humans try unsuccessfully to overcome nature.
On the side of the tangible world, Cesare believes that integrating microalgae cultivations within architecture and design is a way to create virtuous symbiotic behaviors that tend to bring artificial environments to life by closing some loops: reducing the building CO2 emissions, purifying air and grey waters, enhancing passive behaviors through the algal thermal mass, and producing valuable biomass to be used by local communities as food, feed, or energy source.
On the side of the intangible, the WaterLilly project aims to activate human consciousness. The bubbling enlightened green water solution is a trap for the eye that creates a sort of hypnotic state of general relaxation in which time loses meaning and the mind enjoys a form of archaic fascination of natural wonders while reflecting on the brevity of human presence on Earth (only a few tens of thousands of years) compared to the most ancient living creatures (a few billion years). Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) are among the first living organisms appeared on Earth almost four billion years ago. They are the simplest organisms, the most fragile, yet the most resistant. They are responsible of the Oxygen Catastrophe that close to three billions years ago created the atmospheric conditions for the life of later creatures, including humans. They were here much before humans, and will stay much longer. It’s an evidence of how nature is much stronger than us. It’s an evidence of how saying that humans are destroying the planet is an anthropocentric and arrogant statement. What humans are really pursuing is the suicide mission of destroying the conditions for them to stay longer on this planet.
The Lillies so far:
WaterLilly 20 (2019)
WaterLilly 3.17 (2017)
WaterLilly 2.0 (2014)
LillyBot 2.0 (2014)
LillyBot 1.0 (2013)
Lilly Starter Kit (2013)
WaterLilly 1.1 (2012)
WaterLilly 1.0 (2012)
The Lillies have been presented and exhibited in the following events:
- Traces of Centuries and Future Steps, collateral event of the Venice Biennale of Architecture, Palazzo Bembo, Venice, August 25th – November 25th 2012
- Bio.23 Ljubjana Biennal of Design, Museum of Architecture and Design, Ljubjana, September 27th – November 11th 2012
- Share Festival 2012 – Open your City, Museo di Scienze Naturali, Torino, October 30th – November 11th 2012
- 8th Swiss Design Network Symposium 2012.SUPSI, Lugano, November 9th 2012
- Conference Abitare il Futuro, Universita’ Federico II, Napoli, December 12-13th 2012
- Fablab Torino, Birthday Party, Torino, February 15th, 2013
- MIT Senseable City Lab, Pechakucha presentation, Cambridge (MA – USA), February 19th, 2013
- Milano Design week 2013: We Make Open Design: Design dai Codici Apertie la Rivoluzione dei Makers al Fuorisalone, Area35 – Via Vigevano 35, Milano, 10–14th April 2013
- Milano Design week 2013: Bottega Digitale con il Fablab Torino al Salone Satellite, Fiera di Milano, Rho, 10-14th April 2013
- Maker Faire Rome 2013, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, October 3-6th 2013
- Dutch Design Week 2013, Now Future, Klokgebouw Composed Exhibition, Eindhoven, October 19-27th 2013
- Milano Design Week 2014: INTERNI’s Exhibition-Event ‘Feeding New Ideas for the City’ – Cortile d’Onore, Università degli Studi di Milano, Festa del Perdono 7 (7-18th April 2014)
- La Potenza di Helios, Cascina Cuccagna, Milano, 17-18 May 2014
- MiniMakerFaire Torino, 31 May 2014
- Popup Makers Torino, 24 September 2014
- MakerFaire Rome, 3-5 October 2014
- ITU Telecom World Conference, Doha (Qatar), 7-10 December 2014
- Home/Sick – post domestic bliss, Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin, 1 May – 19 July 2015
Conceived and designed by Cesare Griffa, every Lilly has been created by a vast team involving collaborations with other designers, institutions (including Politecnico di Torino, MIT Senseable City Lab), and companies (including Arduino, Fotosintetica & Microbiologica).