Marco Poletto is an architect, educator and innovator. He is co-founder and Director of ecoLogicStudio and the Photosynthetica Consortium. Claudia Pasquero is a renown academic. She is co-founder ecoLogicStudio Associate Professor at the Bartlett UCL, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Head of Institute for IOUD (Institute of Urban Design) at Innsbruck University.
One word that describes you?
What is your personal indulgence?
Beauty, we think of it as the true measure of ecological intelligence.
From the last 25 years in the sustainability movement; where have we succeeded in creating real change and where have we failed? And what does that tell us about how we need to do things differently?
A crucial success has been to put the green agenda firmly on top of any conversation about urban planning and architecture. Cities are getting greener, globally, without a doubts. The biggest let down has been failing to update the definition of what does it mean to be green in the Anthropocene Age. We need to include those aspects of Nature that we normally prefer not to see. The challenge is to find beauty and value in such things as waste or pollution. To transform both their meaning and their physical presence. Rather than cleaning the world we shall re-metabolize it! It is at the same time a technological, cultural and social challenge since it involves innovative approaches with significant scalability and inclusiveness.
Global scientist project that our world will reach 1.5°C (34.7°F) around 2030 and beyond this, most destruction in nature becomes irreversible. How can we drive greater change at pace and scale? And how can we encourage the adoption of new mindsets and approaches critical to creating what’s really needed: a truly just and regenerative future?
First it is important to realize that we are not in control of the planetary evolution. We are part of what we call the Urbansphere, the apparatus of contemporary urbanity, a complex set of systems and infrastructures that supports our increasingly demanding metabolism. We depends on distributed intelligences that are both biological and artificial. The best we can do is to develop a deeper level of communication and interaction with these systems, a more sophisticated collective intelligence, or distributed mind. Design, art and creative practices have an important role to play to ensure that scientific progress engenders social and ecological regeneration. They provide the meta-language to “feel” as well as to compute the impact of our actions, so that we can constantly adjust our goals towards truly re-generative practices.
With less than 8 years to go and knowing that Carbon Zero is ‘too little too late’, are you committed to be Climate Positive (also known as Carbon Negative) before 2030 and what are your most inspiring actions so far?
We have developed the PhotoSynthetica technology and related design innovation venture that is now fully devoted to accelerate the adoption at scale of photosynthetic nature based solutions for the built environment. We are now looking for both investors as well as early adopters to join the list of important clients we are currently working with. We have already build more than 20 testbeds, pilot schemes and demonstrators of architectures that are actively adsorbing CO2 and air pollutants using integrated living cultures of microalgae. These systems are also able to metabolize fresh oxygen and grow biomass as a byproduct. The biomass can be harvested and used as a source of energy, food and raw material for the production of carbon neutral products. We are building new circular economies and embed them right in the urban realm.
What is luxury travel to you?
It may sound banal but really, the journey is what matters to us. So luxury it to take the time to cycle with our children across Europe at gentle pace, suck in its incredible landscapes, indulge in its unique art and architecture and taste its cuisine along the way ( especially the wine…), before finally reaching our loved ones on the other side of the continent.
Your favorite destination committed to sustainable tourism where travellers can leave the place better.
We always enjoyed the Portofino peninsula and the Five Lands area in the Italian Region of Liguria. Especially in winter when it is easy to enjoy its natural beauty and take long walks in its car free trails and roads.
What are your thoughts on Clean Growth – reduce, minimize, or where possible, eliminate the potential negative side effects that economic and income growth can have on the environment? Do you measure and offset your personal and business carbon emissions?
Clean growth is a dangerous illusion. It makes it possible to think that we can continue with our current model, only a bit better. The reality is that only a complete re-metabolization and re-functionalisation of every business and operation as we know it would do. We mean give way with machine age technology and embrace the bio-digital revolution in every aspect of the business. We need to enact a transition bigger in magnitude than what we have observed in post war industrialization. We may call it re-naturalization, but it is not just about planting trees. It is a complete cultural and technological overhaul of our productive apparatus. The ideology of growth will then automatically evaporate substituted by the notion of beauty as a true measure of ecological intelligence.
2022 is The Year to Be Bold. What ‘cause’ are you involved in and what drives your passion?
Re-metabolizing the air pollution in cities and converting it into carbon neutral products.
Who is your greatest influence? What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?
Gregory Bateson has been one of the founding and enduring influences for our practice. Especially his book Steps to an ecology of mind. Bateson wrote: “[…] mere purposive rationality unaided by such phenomena as art, religion, dream, and the like, is necessarily pathogenic and destructive of life; […]” G.Bateson  We hope that with our work we are showing a way to combine art and science to support the proliferation of life on Earth.
Best advice you have been given?
One thing at the time…
Your best advice to young generations concerned about their future?
Get your hands dirty…