Biosphere 2: the Man-Made Ecosystem
Biosphere 2, the largest closed system ever built, is a 3.14-acre Earth systems science research facility in Oracle, Arizona. Constructed between 1987 and 1991, it was designed as an artificial, materially closed ecological system. The goal was to study the interactions between humans, farming and technology with the rest of nature and to.help explore the use of closed biospheres in space colonization. Funding came primarily from Ed Bass, heir to a Texas oil fortune. Bass’ friend, John P. Allen, a proponent of “biospherics,” largely conceived of the project. In 1991, amid massive publicity and media attention, an experiment was launched send eight researchers to live in Biosphere 2 for two years without contact with the outside world. The experiment was soon plagued with problems and controversies, however. The so-called “biospherians” began to starve in what was supposed to be a self-sustaining ecosystem, and rumors emerged of growing tension between the inhabitants. Due to dangerously high carbon dioxide levels, a CO2 scrubber was secretly installed. It was later revealed that many of the researchers lacked credentials, leading many critics to begin questioning the scientific validity of the multi-million dollar experiment. A video produced from footage taken during the two-year experiment reveals the bizarre atmosphere in Biosphere 2 and the effects of placing humans in a closed, and ultimately unsustainable, system. Though the experiment was ultimately a failure, the facilities continue to be used today and are now operated by the University of Arizona. In the late 1990s, researchers from Columbia University used Biosphere 2 to make the first links between rising carbon dioxide levels, ocean acidification, and reduced coral growth. Now, researchers are using the site to study how climate change might affect water resources.
Mies van der Rohe’s design for the Barcelona Pavilion became an icon for its simplistic structure combined with exotic materials—like marbleized onyx. The veneer was a bold statement in materiality that made Mies’ famous pavilion stand out from other concrete-clad buildings of the nascent modernist movement, and has provided inspiration for Wiel Arets Architects’ recently completed Allianz Headquarters in Zürich. Read more.