Living Light, 2009
The Living
This permanent pavilion in a public park uses LEDs and data from government-monitored sensors to map air quality throughout the city.

David Benjamin, the principal of Brooklyn-based firm The Living, is not one for convention. His research interests—mussels, slime mold, bone growth, to name a few—are not exactly mainstream. But his unusual design approach—the application of biological systems to architecture, coupled with a geeky software and programming sensibility—has led to collaborations with a string of big-name clients, including 3M, Airbus, Autodesk, and Kanye West, on mostly experimental and research-based projects.

Since founding his practice in 2006, little of Benjamin’s work—developing new materials using synthetic biology, writing design modeling software, and using live mussels to track water quality in the East River in New York—would be categorized as architecture, at least in the traditional sense.

But two new commissions—a new building at Princeton and the MoMA P.S. 1 Young Architects’ 2014 summer installation—are allowing the firm to segue into more customary architecture projects for the first time. The MoMA scheme, in particular, has garnered considerable buzz for its unusual building materials—bricks made out of corn stocks and mycelium, a root material in mushrooms.

Benjamin will present his recent work tonight, in the first of eight lectures given by the 2014 winners of the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices competition.

Click through the slide show to see more of The Living’s work.