House Made of Meat Serves Up Delicious Surprises

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mitchell joachim, meat house, terreform ONE, meat habitatDr. Mitchell Joachim is putting a whole new spin on the term "grow your own." An architecture and sustainable design professor at New York University, Joachim is also the co-founder of Terreform ONE, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that connects scientists, architects, artists and students in an effort to come up with a few creative solutions for urban sustainability. True to their mission, Terreform ONE has created one of the world's most bizarrely ambitious green habitat projects: a home created entirely from meat.

Designed to be a truly organic "victimless shelter," the scaled-down prototype unit's building materials are grown from pig cells in a lab, meaning that no trees or animals were hurt in the process, then shaped using the same medical techniques used to treat cancer patients.

Bacon anyone?
"The idea is based on a couple of concepts in regenerative medicine," explains Dr. Joachim. "One of the treatments for certain kinds of cancer is that you can replace the patient's bladder with cells grown in a test tube. When you do that, you have to shape the cells a certain way. Basically we used that technique to shape our cells too."

After creating and shaping the cells, Joachim and his project partner, Harvard Medical School grad Dr. Oliver Medvedik, applied a sodium benzoate preservative, then added fatty cells as insulation and sphincter muscles for potential doors and windows. Two years after creating the first prototype, the In Vitro Meat Habitat is still standing. Joachim says that it's impervious to almost anything except too much direct sunlight -- and bugs.

"Basically it's just a beef jerky house," he adds. "It's not living. There's no vascular system. It's just flesh that never was alive."

Despite its environmental benefits and a glowing endorsement at the TED Talks, the flesh house, even if a full-scale version is created, will undoubtedly be a tough sell to consumers. Besides the obvious visceral and design challenges ahead, the homes would also fall in that category of super eco-homes that struggle for financing. If you thought convincing a lender to fund a pricey suburban was a challenge, just try finding a mortgage for a lab-grown meat house.

terreform ONE, fab tree hab, mitchell joachimJoachim may be onto an idea that's much larger than a house made of test-tube meat. While the meat house seems like an unlikely sell, the notion of converging architecture and biology to create habitats that are a part of nature, rather than a subtraction from the environment, is certainly worthy of further investigation. A more palatable alternative is actually one of Joachim's earlier projects. In 2006, Terreform ONE introduced the Fab Tree Hab -- a shelter created by growing native trees over removable scaffolding. Once the trees are fully grown, the scaffolding is removed and quite literally the Earth acts as the home's structure. Think of it as a sophisticated tree house in which the trees come to you.

Despite insect and parasite concerns, not to mention the fact that it takes 7 to 10 years to grow a Fab Tree Hab village, both projects are a remarkable departure from traditional sustainable architecture and could represent the next step in earth-conscious design. Who knows? Perhaps homeowners of the future will strive to have a meat abode just as fancy as their neighbors. And imagine the cookouts.


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