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Karst Above, 2017 - 

PLA 3D printing, urea and borax crystalization, site research, geology-biology research. Dimensions variables

Karst Above imagines a limestone cave space above the ground, created with the help of bacteria. Collaboration between both geobiology and architecture disciplines will be necessary for the project, and Woo is planning to submit a proposal for research and funding. Simultaneous studies of spatial formations and research on the microbiome found in karst caves would enable us to design an age-dating system, design rates of deposition, and design changing shapes of architectural forms.


Very little is known about the species of microbiome living inside the various parts of limestone caves, however their role and influence on forming the cave underground are significant. As a result, the physical patterns and form-shaping algorithms of various stone shapes are also as-yet not fully identifiable. 


What if one could understand the algorithms of various karst cave shape and texture formations and their relationship with living microorganisms inside? What if the physical outer and inner shape of the space change with time? Findings are unpredictable, as the role of the microbiome on caves is currently not fully known. The project is to produce imagery of the meaning of limestone caves within our living spaces, using known algorithms and patterns of limestone-like forms; urea and borax crystallization.

Carbonate Crystals Precipitated by Freshwater Bacteria and Their Use as a Limestone Consolidant

Deposition of calcium carbonate in karst caves- role of bacteria

Geomicrobiology of Caves: A Review

Most visitors to a limestone cave will have been told that stalactites form when water, containing calcium bicarbonate, drips from the ceiling above. What we have not considered seriously until recently is the work of microbes in this stalactite-forming process. Science Daily has reported new work by Swedish speleologists which shows that living cells have much more to do with cave formations than previously thought. Microbes do not just live on the dripstones; they actively participate in their formation. Researchers from Denmark, Sweden, and Spain have investigated dripstone formations in Swedish caves, and concluded that microbes play an active part in their formation as well.

Site Research - Ssang Yong cave, Jeju Isalnd, Korea

‘Ssangyong Cave’ in Hyupje, on Korea’s Jeju Island, was first formed by volcanic activity, and later became a limestone cave. The unique formation of the cave makes it a valuable site for geological research, however tourism-related construction and visits from the public have disturbed the microbial living conditions there. The cave has been chosen to visit several times for morphological studies of stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, and stone pillars. 

Computation Design Application 

Under current, limited understanding of cave microbiome and its effects on the formation of limestone cave stone morphology, Woo uses random computation to imagine the changing shapes of the cave space over time. X number of dots are placed at random in a box and broken into nonspecific numbers, shapes, and angles, with 300 – 500 unsystematically positioned, inter-connected points. Changing over time, the module patterns and sequences are produced randomly, illustrating the shapes of limestone formations as they transform. 

Illustrating the growth of limestones with the aid of microbiome placed on the surface of the designed shape as time passes

Fabrication - Additive printing / Urea and Borax crystallization 

For the project fabrication, urea and borax crystallizations are imagined as bacterial embedment upon a designed skeletal structure. Simple bone structures are designed and 3D printed for controlling and predicting the changing bacteria-embedment walls, ceilings, floors, and pillar shapes, over time.

3D printed skeletons for fabrication and testing random growth pattern