The Urban Algae Folly project comes to its end

March 10, 2016

The Urban Algae Folly project has now come to its end. The Urban Algae Folly was installed in a collaborative project comprising the INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, the City of Braga, and the Foundation Francisco Manuel dos Santos. During the month of March, the live structure will be dismantled.

Since November 17th 2015, the day of the inauguration, many people have visited the Praça da República, in the centre of Braga, to look at the Folly and to try to find out more about this live architecture. For over four months the Folly stirred the curiosity and attention of passers-by, locals and tourists alike. At first sight, each visitor was confronted with an alien object that later on motivated discussion and debate about science and sustainable development.

To raise awareness about the project and increase its impact in education, the Center of Biological Engineering and the Center of Molecular and Environmental Biology from the University of Minho joined the project to support it with their invaluable expertise.

The project ended with the Folly Week, a week of open classes that involved students from six different high schools in Braga and closed with a dedicated Science Café. The school activities provided the opportunity for hands-on interaction with the Folly. Students reacted with enthusiasm to this unique learning opportunity outside the classroom, while their teachers appreciated the classes for making science more relevant and accessible to the students.

Looking through the microscope, students were given a chance to observe the living algae Chlorella Vulgaris, the mysterious inhabitants of the structure that remained invisible until that point to an unaided vision of casual observers. As explained in the open classes, the project shed light on the potential uses of integrating microalgae cultures in architecture for taking advantage of their two main biological functions: the production of oxygen and the capturing of energy from sunlight.

As the project is ending, Lars Montelius, the Director-General of INL, is “very pleased to have put an example of bioinspiration for Nanotechnology in the middle of the City of Braga, lending many inhabitants of Braga as well as visitors to Braga, the possibility of interacting with Science – translated through this ‘Conversation Piece’”. The Director-General of INL also stressed the importance of the “excellent collaboration between INL, the Municipality, the Foundation Francisco Manuel dos Santos and the University of Minho” in making the Folly “a big success”.