Dr Rachel Armstrong

Living Architect

Dr Rachel Armstrong

Cities can not be truly sustainable unless they are"living"

TED Global Fellow Dr Rachel Armstrong is a medical doctor who chooses to work at the cross section of art and science, to enable health and well being projects to reach the widest population worldwide.

In 2013, Rachel was completing a PhD in Architectural Design, with a futuristic flavour, working on the idea of creating living buildings with protocells...

Update: Her work takes her now to develop Black Sky Thinking

One example of Rachel’s Black Sky work is as Project Leader for Persephone. Persephone is a crewed interstellar craft, to be assembled in Earth’s orbit, within a hundred years. Rachel is responsible for designing and implementing a giant natural computer that will form the interior of a space ship. The craft or ‘Worldship’ will feature a new approach to building materials called ‘living architecture’. Pioneered by Dr. Armstrong, it suggests it is possible for our buildings to share some of the properties of living systems.

Who are you, Rachel? And what is your impact as a female social innovator?

I am an interdisciplinary practitioner with a background in medicine. I have collaborated with both artists and architects to create a new experimental space to explore scientific concepts. Recently I was described as a polymath (and a fairy) by Tom Reilly, TED’s Community Director, at this year’s TED Global Oxford conference. My extensive interdisciplinary practice engages with a fundamental driving principle – the fundamental creativity of science. I use all manner of media to engage audiences and bring them into contact with the latest advances in science and their real potential through the inventive applications of technology, to address some of the biggest problems facing the world today.

What change do you bring about and how are you doing it?

In 2010, I have been made a Senior TED Fellow and i have been work ng with the TED community & other collaborators to explore the possibility of developing a carbon capture technology for the surface of the built environment in order to address climate change. In order to do this I will be working with a chemical system called the protocell that exhibits some of the properties of living systems such as, movement, sensitivity and complex behaviour. I am conducting my research and development of this potential technology in close collaboration with scientists and architects ensuring that the public are engaged in the development process through exhibitions and seminars. I am also striving to set up a centre, possibly somewhere in India, to transfer knowledge of this new system to developing countries so that they can be equipped with a new kind of technology to deal with the inevitable rise in carbon dioxide emissions they will experience as their urban populations rapidly rise in the next few decades.

Which networks work best for you?

I am extremely lucky as I have a great deal of fun following my thoughts and questions about the amazing world we live in. I find my research enormously fulfilling particularly when I am generating interest in and sharing new scientific developments with all kinds of different audiences. It has been particularly awesome becoming part of the TED network as in my opinion this is an open and unlimited forum for potential personal growth. This means that I constantly come into contact with new groups of people with whom I have the most amazing exchanges and experiences.

Watch the TED video Here

Rachel has a diverse and exciting portfolio of internationally recognised, multi-disciplinary inpossible work and projects. These are characterized by their audacity and visionary long-term goals, with ever changing outcomes that have presented new discoveries within their development. A selection of which can be explored here.

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