Luzern Light Festival 2023


Human-made architecture is governed by gravity. The weight of the upper elements weighs on those below, whose shape and composition must be able to resist it. This arch is an architectural feat that holds heavy stones in suspension and thereby defies the laws of gravity by redistributing stones weight to the side pillars.

By contrast, gravity plays only a minor role in the architectures of living organisms. The cells that our body is made of, as well as most living organisms, are so small that their weight is negligible. The laws that direct the building of the internal architecture of cells are still unknown. And despite the amazing advances of modern technologies, the logic of these structures remains completely mysterious.

This work, which highlights the contrast between human-made and nature-made architectures, illustrates our lack of understanding of living architectures. We asked human cells to build this arch and to show us how their internal architecture would work.

In order to match the size of the cells and the arch, we miniaturized the arch. Using cutting edge nano-lithography processes, we designed arches a tenth of a millimeter high. We placed cells on them and video-recorded their behavior using a microscope. Then, to explore further the structures that build the internal architecture of the cells, we isolated the filaments they are made of and let them grow on the micro-arches. The movies we obtained are projected onto the actual arch. It is now the turn of the cells and their internal structures to be enlarged to the size of the arch.

This project stems from the collaboration between the biologist of the CEA/CNRS and the plasticians from the groupe LAPS. It is based on the use of microfabrication, cell culture, biochemistry, microscopy and video-projection to show living architectures adapting to the architecture of a building.

Conception : CytoMorpho Lab, Groupe LAPS

Réalisation : Louise Bonnemay, Matthieu Gélin, Juliana Geay, Alfredo Sciortino, Clothilde Utzschneider, Benoit Vianay, and Manuel Théry pour le CytoMorpho Lab. Nadir Bouassria, Pierre Froment and Erwan Quintin pour le groupe LAPS.