Micro-Hortus Conclusus - Ceramic 3d printed micro-garden lattices

How can we use new advanced digital manufacturing and associative design to develop customizable prototypes for the top layer of green roof or wall systems?

The research aims of this prototype is an exploration of the capacities for novel fabrication technologies to construct cultivated synthetic micro-ecologies. These synthetic substrate prototypes are intended as components within green roof or wall systems.

This proposed future prototype scales down our conventional focus and association with what constitutes a ‘garden’. Riffing off the tradition of the enclosed garden (Hortus conclusus), the miniature or micro-world of small plants is deliberately framed and given authority by keeping things small and delicate.

The current prevailing approach towards the cultivation of our environments, whether it be in urban ecologies or agriculture, is rapidly tending towards the monocultural. An attentiveness to the micro-world, often unseen at our feet, affords us an awareness of the greater diversity that may constitute a wider environment or ecology, spanning across the full spectrum of sizes and scales.

The mini-horticultural world has been coming into focus as a valuable biological resource that has the potential to realign our relationship to our wider ecology. The ignored world of bryophytes are an untapped new sensing network that has the capacity to act as indicators or monitoring agents of the air quality and pollution in our cities. More recently, the burgeoning trend of microgreens has been found to offer a highly concentrated source of nutrition that can be cultivated with a smaller environmental impact and allowing for the diversification of food systems in urban areas.

Pairing fourth industrial revolution manufacturing advances with associative design and modelling, this prototype offers a process that allows for the generation of larger ceramic micro-garden lattice systems that have the capacity for customizable differentiation. The ancient material world of ceramics and its characteristic properties offers a logical framework as well as a growing medium for the miniature world of micro-plants.

The base associative model leverages the natural structural and space-filling capacities of the circle which is scaled up to form an intricate lattice. Variables in circle size, thickness, tapering (to produce cylindrical or conical profiles) and depth afford the capacity for the lattice to take on an opaque thickened section or a lighter, delicate lace-like quality. This translates to a wide gradient of qualities of exposures, shading, protection, moisture and sizing or in other words, a diversified range of synthetic habitats and micro-climates.

The research aim of this prototype is an exploration of the capacities for novel fabrication technologies to construct cultivated synthetic micro-ecologies.


Exhibited at the Future Prototyping exhibition for the 2020 NGV Melbourne Design Week

Project Contact:

David Syn Chee Mah, Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Urban Design
Leire Asensio Villoria, Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Urban Design
Candela de Bortoli, Research Assistant

Project Partners:

Flower and plant advice: Warren Worboys, Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria. 
Floral Design: Azumi Ishikawa, Azumi