For Contaminant, Steve Pike designed and crafted a structure of Monitor Cells and Monitor Vessels that set out ‘to apprehend and develop locally present microbes’. Proving to be a significant investigation into the monitoring capability and responsiveness of the structure, the installation also exemplified an emergent, morphological aesthetic. The Contaminant 1 project collectively describes a series of investigative studies culminating in a responsive architectural installation. Rather than considering the ability of microorganisms to modify their immediate environment, as with previous work such as Algaetecture and Nonsterile, the objective of this study was to investigate the monitoring capabilities of an installation deliberately designed to apprehend and develop locally present microbes and to reveal the resultant morphological aesthetic. Initially, a series of portable Monitor Cells was created, and exposed to particular locations and their attendant microbes in order to discover the common micro-organisms present and to identify those specific to a given environment. The results were demonstrative. Aspergillus, commonly present in the fabric of our built environment, and Micrococcus which populates the surface of our skin, proliferated across all of the Monitor Cells. But other, more distinct, microbes, directly associated with plant, fruit, bread or dairy material present at the particular site of exposure gave rise to unique visual transformations, in turn revealing an almost epidemiological history. top: CAD/CAM production of the Monitor Cells. As a derivative of laboratory apparatus, the functional form of the Monitor Cell was initially developed by a CAD process, allowing accurate manufacturing moulds to be established. This data was then translated to enable tool path programming. The four-part moulds were then modelled with a CAM process, utilising a CNC mill, before assembly. The composite mould was employed to vacuum-form transparent acrylic sheet in order to produce multiple Monitor Cells, each possessing the precision necessary for the device to facilitate airtightness subsequent to exposure. bottom: Preparation of the Monitor Vessels in the laboratory. Monitor Vessel plates were prepared under sterile conditions in the UCL Department of Microbiology laboratory. The potato dextrose and agar, or BG11 and agar, solutions possess specifically tailored compositions dependent upon the group of micro-organisms targeted for capture. Following heating to high temperature in an autoclave, the growth medium is applied within the sterile environment of a laminar flow extractor hood before being placed in an illuminated incubator prior to exposure. 25
Visitors to the installation introduce particulate matter, catalysts for the transformation of Monitor Vessels. The micro-organisms Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus terreus, present in our built environment, and Micrococcus, found on the surface of human skin, compete for colonial territory across the growth plates. Structure, facilitators, inhibitors, moisture extracts and photo sources support the flourishing growth, composing a semi-living hybrid – an abstraction of the proposed subterranean intervention.