In Porto, as part of the URBiNAT regeneration project, Nature Based Solutions (NBS) will be implemented in six schools through a participatory process involving the kids and teachers together with local experts. The goal of the Living Systems seminar is to develop these NBS as horizontal and vertical design solutions, that can provide new areas for pedagogical gardening activities as well as for the renaturalization of the space.


Master in Advanced Architecture’s Design with Living Systems Seminar has been organised within the framework of URBiNAT. It is a H2020 project aiming to regenerate deprived urban areas with healthy corridors implemented through Nature Based Solutions (NBS) co-created with citizens. Inspired by initial proposals developed by the kids of the Porto schools, the IAAC students designed their initial strategies for structural systems to house both flora and fauna, as well as ceramic textures for bio-receptive surfaces to further host living matter and microorganisms.

The proposals and the corresponding small scale prototypes developed, were evaluated by a jury of experts at IAAC, by the children of Porto, supported by their teachers, and the experts of the URBiNAT project, in a participatory workshop hosted in the 6 schools. Following the feedback, the IAAC students developed the final prototypes, combining structural systems with diverse textures.

During a 3 day weekend workshop, the students worked hard to develop their installations, working with digital fabrication tools, Ladybug for solar analysis and detailing their projects to create viable solutions. Below you can find more information from the students about the final projects developed.

The Playground:

Project Description by Miran Calmanovici

The design is an inviting, interactive and playful module for the children at the elementary school. It provides a sensorial experience for them, both visually and physically, feeding their curiosity by stimulating all five senses.

The Playground contains an organic wave geometry made from wood. The playful form and soft texture will allure the children to approach the structure instinctively while the fluid cavities and extrusions host various plants. Herbs and vegetables will be grown at the bottom to allow easy accessibility for the children. They can have the experience of nurturing their own garden, smelling and tasting their harvest as they learn.

Flowering plants will be located throughout, which will attract pollinating animals like butterflies, birds and other insects. The captivating array of colours will visually stimulate their minds and eyesight. Some of the extrusions will house insects. This will create an active environment of buzzing bees and birds, building a micro-ecosystem. The goal is to heighten the senses of the students and inspire them to connect with their natural environment.

The structure comprises of three modules. A planter, insect hotels and removable pots for the children. The removable pots will be 3-D printed and can be placed at different points in the structure depending on the children’s choice. 

This project was also exhibited during the New European Bauhaus Exhibition 2022 in Brussels.

Pyramid Scheme

Project Description by Morgan O’Reilly

The design for living systems seminar held a weekend workshop that focused on experimenting with prototype fabrication to inform the model used for the final presentations. To begin, the team created a small laser cut plywood prototype of the plant pot to determine the joinery and angle details. In addition, one face of the final pot was milled in foam and then cast in plaster to illustrate how the intended fabrication method would look. Based on these details and initial explorations, the team prepared the files for the full size CNC milled model. On the second and third days of the workshop all of the pieces were milled and then sanded or adjusted by hand in preparation for assembly. The final assembly, which included, glueing, clamping and screwing the pieces in place, occurred throughout the days following the workshop. The workshop allowed the team to produce an array of fabricated models that communicated the final iteration of the project to the jury.


Project Description by Aleyna Gültekin

“How can we include children to the design process and create a space where they can learn and feel a sense of participation?” In response, an innovative structure holding standardised pots was designed to house plants for cultivation and flowers while helping with water transmission. Students would have the opportunity to decorate their own pot including them in the co-creation process. 

3D printing was chosen as the method of fabrication to ensure a lightweight, mobile structure that can be applied to different schools. During the three day workshop, we experimented, tested and analysed our first proposal, optimising the geometry to 3D print without any supports and minimising the waste. 

Implementing Ladybug solar analysis to understand the sun path and direct sun hours, enabled us to change the structure, thicken the edges, change the scale and height. This created more shadows in specific areas to meet the sun requirements of the plants. In addition, simulating rainfall and irrigation through Grasshopper helped us to alter the geometry further to optimise water transmission. The water flow was tested by pouring water on to the prototypes.

Subsequently, two different textures were applied to the selected parts of the structure. One, to slow down the speed of water and the other, to provide cavities for birds, bees, butterflies etc. to drink water. Combining both flora and fauna throughout the whole structure will engage children more in the cultivation process and help them to learn by doing.


Project Description by Harshul Pareshbhai Goti and Divya Shah

The idea of the project was to develop a system that is friendly towards the children. The understanding of the project was 3 fold

1- Material

2- User group

3- Fabrication technique

Keeping all this in mind, including the flora and fauna of Porto, we assembled the entire system of these pots, where not only the location of plants and flowers, but also the irrigation system and the drainage of the water was explored in a circular circuit system. The arrangement of the flora was achieved by simulating a  solar analysis through Ladybug. 

In terms of the design, the texture’s pattern was developed in such a way to allow the water to run through and over the entire wall helping the moss to grow under pots in the shaded area. Also, the structural system of the pots was designed to hang the pots on a metal/wooden frame, making it easier to assemble. Regarding the fabrication, there were multiple factors that needed to be taken into consideration, including the shrinkage of the material and the consistency of the material.

Concluding the project, through advanced fabrication techniques, the design was made interactive for the children, creating a space where they can learn and explore more about flora and fauna.

Designing for and with children, aged 6-9, pushed the students to design with them in mind. The next steps include sharing the designs with the different schools and receiving their feedback, before finalising the designs and fabricating them. This will occur during the following months in order to begin installing the designs in Porto in the Autumn. More information to come soon!

Are you interested in designing with nature and designing through participatory processes?
Find out more about the Master in Advanced Architecture: