Martina Taranto


Viral Nature proposes a composite material, 84% organic, able to host life.

Fertile and easy to shape, the mix can be employed to cast complex structures made to grow into living botanical sculptures.

The material, embedded with plant seeds, can be ‘programmed’ to hold or kick off the process of vegetal growth. It detains humidity maintaining the seeds sufficiently moist and absorbs water through capillarity. The formula of the composite mix is highly adaptable with elements local of a specific geographical zone to avoid potential ecological disruption.

My graduation project for the Royal College of Art envisions two different applications for this material. 

The Eco-virus is a proposal for a scalable intervention that aims to reduce the problem of desertification and soil degradation around the globe. Icosahedron-like structures behave like active ‘eco-viruses’. The pioneer plant seeds embedded in the blend find space and conditions to grow in the body of the designed shape; when mature the plants spread autonomously through the wind, contaminate the surrounding area with native wild vegetation and trigger a primary ecological succession: the first step to reach the ecological climax (forest, Mediterranean scrub, savannah...).

While growing the plants will slowly make the composite structure crumble, and when decayed, the plants and the host become humus to the soil. The structures, in their course of life, attract biodiversity, from earthworms to pollinators.

This intervention aims to speed up the process of soil regeneration and increase the chances of success.

The UN declares 41.3% of our land
is at risk of desertification.
Most of the causes are imputable to human activity.

Material RESEARCH:

I’ve approached the early stages of this project keeping in mind the necessity to respect the environment. I’ve consulted a naturalist expert in Mediterranean flora and fauna, who identified for me some ideal species I could use to produce a proof of concept. I’ve talked with a material scientist who helped me defining a rigorous method to conduct material tests, shown a sample of my material sprouting under conditions replicating the Sicilian environment to a biologist and collaborated with a biohacker who tested two identical samples with an artificial incubator able to control light and temperature in order to compare those with my samples grown in a greenhouse. Analyzed the importance of bioreceptivity.

I’ve researched about the implications of environmental human interventions, the scale of the human threat, observed the interaction of humans with the living structures and their ability to develop an instant emotional connection with it.