Nature’s Intelligence

When Facetiming with Marco Poletto and Claudia Pasquero, longterm partners and the Italian co-founders of east London-based ecoLogicStudio, one is immediately transported into the experimental, scientific ethos of their practice.


Instead of the usual video-chat backdrop of an artfully curated bookshelf, their home features three giant, glass tubes – photo-bioreactors – bubbling with an array of colourful substances. ‘They are three strains of edible micro-algae that we are cultivating,’ explains Poletto, ‘the porphyridium is wine-red, the chlorella yellow-green and the spirulina the green-blue, so dense it’s almost black.’ These are part of the post-pandemic strategies the studio is developing, exploring how urban populations could grow vegetable proteins. Not only supplying food but absorbing carbon dioxide, while also oxygenating homes more efficiently than house plants. ‘The kids love harvesting it. Last night we made spirulina bread,’ adds Pasquero, ‘spirulina has quite a sharp taste, somewhere between grass and nuts.’

‘Is this architecture?’ you may ask. EcoLogicStudio’s website defines itself as an ‘architectural and urban design practice specialised in environmental design, urban self-sufficiency and building integrated nature’. But, this pioneering firm, which the pair established in 2005, defies categorisation, and that is the whole point. 

‘We don’t like labels as they tend to be reductionist in terms of how they box in disciplinary boundaries,’ says Poletto, who studied engineering alongside Pasquero at Turin Polytechnic, before both attended London’s Architectural Association, later teaching there and at the Bartlett School of Architecture. ‘We’re happy to take on different titles depending on the particular environment,’ says Poletto. ‘However, if we want to reimagine the way technology and nature come together, we need to re-describe these paths.’
Pasquero cites Gregory Bateson’s influential 1972 book, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, which inspired their studio’s name, as central to their ethos. Bateson proposed that world problems stem from the difference between ‘the way nature works and the way people think’. ecoLogicStudio’s projects are tackling that, trying to activate a paradigm shift from the Anthropocene age towards a newer, better interconnected world where humans, non-human species and microorganisms work holistically and effectively together. This is clearly no small task, and ecoLogicStudio collaborates with biologists, engineers, artists, computer scientists and programmers – not to mention algae, funghi, slime mould, spiders and silkworms – to do their work, working between theory and practice.