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DAZED LIVE: Magnus Larsson

The maverick architect and journalist is introducing 'Dune' and unveiling radical new ideas with regards to a future beyond biomimicry at Dazed Live this Saturday

Magnus Larsson is the maverick architect whose seminal “Dune” project (announced with the catchy tagline: 'Arenaceous Anti-desertification Architecture') won the Holcim Next Generation Award. As a journalist he’s written for AnOther Magazine, The Wire and Frame and it’s this essential communication that affects his creative architectural process. “Dune” proposed that by controlling a bacteria that turns sand into sandstone, he could create epic, naturally-forming structures within the desert. At Dazed Live, Larsson will be introducing 'Dune', and unveiling radical new ideas with regards to a future beyond biomimicry, and potentially the beginnings of a biological computer...


Dazed Digital: What are your plans with your talk at Dazed Live?
Magnus Larsson: With biomimicry, I think it’s a great thing to look to nature for inspiration but I feel that the ‘mimicry’ part of the expression is a bit limiting. Rather than just mimic processes in nature, I think we can harness the powers of nature itself and allow it to help us create. That in a way is what the “Dune” project is all about.

DD: What was the catalyst of your Dune project and can you introduce how it works?
Magnus Larsson: I felt like the desert was a mesmerising landscape to work with. As it moves people need to move with it as you can’t sustain a living when huge dunes threaten to overtake your village or the land that you farm. I found out that there was this project called the “Great Green Wall” where they wanted to plant trees across the Sahara desert and the idea was born that I wanted to create a support structure for that initiative. 

I was interested in seeing if I could work with the local material and turn sand into a solid structure. I was going even deeper into research land when finally I stumbled across the bacteria I used for the project.

DD: So the bacteria can theoretically be used?
Magnus Larsson: It can be used, it’s not just theoretical. Tests have been made in laboratories and there’s nothing to say that it can’t. Whether to that scale is a different matter, and that’s something we’re looking into at the moment. But the process itself is part of the stack of white papers showing that it works. 

DD: When did you start your writing career?
Magnus Larsson: I started off in journalism 16-years-ago in Stockholm and I wrote for a few different publications for many years. I’ve also worked in advertising as a copywriter and creative director but I changed it for architecture at 25-years-old. 

DD: Do you think your approach is slightly different as there’s more unusual inspirations within your background?
Magnus Larsson: In a way, architecture is about communication. That’s an aspect of the discipline that is somewhat lacking and there’s definitely room for more progression into that area. I suppose that gives me a bit of a different edge. I’m also very, very used to doing a lot of exhaustive research and finding interesting information from different sources. I suppose I’m allowing that to have an impact on my architecture. 

DD: In the broadest sense of the words, how does DIY and digital inspire you?
Magnus Larsson: We’re talking about material science and architecture at the bacterial or atomic scale. There’s progresses being made, in terms of being able to programme material. Just a few months ago they managed to create a gateway where you can begin to program materials to create a kind-of-binary code structure, potentially the beginnings of a biological computer. Put that together with the way that I approach the “Dune” project which, in a very controlled manner, was telling the material to gel in certain places. As we connect that to a near future in which we can programme the bacteria themselves, all of a sudden we have an opportunity to create something that you wouldn’t even have dreamt of just a few years ago.

Magnus Larsson is at Dazed Live on Saturday April 9, 2011. The festival takes place at several locations in and around Shoreditch and is presented in partnership with Levi's and Absolut Vodka. Find out more about the Dazed Live HERE and buy your tickets HERE

Dazed Live, in collaboration with the Japan Society Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund, will donate 15% of ticket sales from the festival to help care for the survivors and to help rebuild the affected areas