This video contains two lectures given by Carolyn Dry at covering many of the same topics but presented at different times.
Glen Small introduces Carolyn Dry, noting that she specializes in a type of research most architects have never heard of. Her clients are organizations such as NASA and the United States Navy. She has taught at MIT, UCLA, Texas A & M, Miami University, SCI-Arc, and currently teaches at the University of Illinois. She is Executive director of her research group Natural Process Design, and works for NASA in the Office of Naval Research.
Dry explains that she is interested in an architecture that is not about form, but is about how form is generated. Looking at existing natural systems, she tries to find strategic ways to intervene in those systems in order to drive a desired form. With the goal of developing new building technologies, this kind of architecture relates well to the environment because it uses the materials of the environment. It is intelligent in the sense that it has an apparent order that capable of adapting over time.
Dry discusses her idea for building with plant materials which would produce beautiful structures that naturally provide oxygen and water vapor, changing the micro-climate. She is also researching ways of building with earth materials and uses termite nests as an example of the potential of this approach. Her projects in these areas include development of a structure that is made of extruded plant material that would retain water in desertified areas, and a lunar habitat for NASA. She discusses her proposals for the design of a space station and takes questions from the audience.
Dry takes questions from the audience about her projects. She observes that the environment is inherently intelligent, but that people interact with it as if it isn’t. Addressing the difficulties of building on the moon, she describes her proposed process of melting oxide ores to make a very thick glass to provide protection from solar wind and radiation.
At 50:24 another, different lecture by Carolyn Dry begins.
Glen Small introduces Carolyn Dry, noting that she is an architect, teacher, and research specialist currently teaching at Virginia Tech as the Director of the Center for Materials Research in Architecture. She has also taught at the University of Illinois, SCI-Arc, UCLA, MIT, and Texas A & M. Her projects include a lunar base for NASA, development of indigenous materials for the Army, and harbors and communications made from natural materials for the Navy.
Carolyn Dry describes “natural process design” as an architecture in which humans assist, but the form is a result of activating a process in nature, and can be thought of as genetic engineering for architects. Based on the concept that environment is half the basis for evolution, this architecture is an attempt to develop the environment to be more fit for its organisms. This is a criticism of conventional architecture which does not consider that everything is interconnected relating to waste, energy, and environmental and economic issues.
Dry discusses a project for the Civil Engineering Research Lab in Urbana, Illinois where she proposed a new way of building in a hot and humid environment using indigenous materials. The proposed structure uses coconut pith in its walls as a desiccant. She describes a similar technique she developed for communities in Nepal. Some of her current work includes creating an earthquake resistant building, and a project for a lunar base for NASA.
Dry describes her work at Virginia Tech involving agriculture. Other projects related to the lunar base include computer simulations, analyzing soil attributes, creating new building materials, mapping energy flows, testing structural models of pressure vessels, and developing a high resolution graphics board to monitor a building remotely. She answers questions regarding the process and difficulty of building on the moon, and comments on the possibility of using chemoautotrophic bacteria that consume rocks and produce gas.