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Decentralized Mobile Services Among Reconfigurable City Blocks

Hyundai-Sponsored Future Urban Design

Project Overview

This project is divided into two parts: research and design.

  • The research process starts by examining, documenting, and modeling natural energy systems of microbial world as decentralized, self-organized, and adaptive

  • The design process takes inspirations from the learned natural energy systems to envision adaptive future urban conditions.


Natural Energy System in Bacteria Communication & Mobility

We examined three levels of energy Interactions in bacterial world.

  • First, at the cellular level, the signaling mechanism generates chemical energy that allows decentralized bacterial communication.

  • Secondly, at the intercellular levelsocial energy is created through chemical energy, resulting in swarming.

  • Lastly, at the environmental level, bacterial host generate adaptive qualities through the mechanism of quorum quenching


Quorum Sensing

Bacterial cells emit chemical signals and receive signals produced by others to sense how much of its own species is nearby. When there are a certain amount of like-species within a region, they all trigger a group response, such as emitting light or attacking the immune system.

Quorum Sensing

I mapped the logic of bacterial communication network into a circuit. In the picture on the right, each breadboard is designed to imitate how one bacteria cell would pass on information through chemical molecules. The behavior of the bacterial cell is indicated through the blinking led lights.


When signals are received by every member of the group, the leds start to blink in synchrony.

When the population threshold is reached (In this example, population threshold is 3), led lights all change color simultaneously.



Chemotaxis refers to the ways the bacteria navigate in its environment and the mechanism of interactions at the cellular and intercellular level. It highlights its decentralized and self-organized navigation.


Quorum Quenching

Quorum quenching refers hosts defense response against bacterial communication network. It can be achieved through 3 different mechanisms:
- blocking signal production
- modify the signals (AHLs) by enzymes produced by cells
- Inhibit of the signal receptor (AHL) by preventing the molecule from binding to its receptor. 

Quorum Quenching
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Design Progress
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Design Development

Correlation Between Natural Energy System And Urban System

Design Developments

After examining layers of energy interactions within the bacteria quorum sensing and chemotaxis, I realized that correlations can be drawn between bacteria and different levels of urban systems.

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By brainstorming ideas in relation to various properties of bacterial systems such as mobility, autonomy, and adaptability with host, I was able to narrow down to several ideas for further explorations.

Initial Idea I:
Mobile homes that migrate based on climatic shifts


Initial Idea II:
Autonomous Space Utilization/Social program

Initial Idea III:
Reimagine Life & Resource Organization

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Final Design

Decentralized Mobile Services Among Reconfigurable City Blocks

final design
  • We propose a city that is organized around the development of courtyard typology in which services and facilities are integrated into modular and mobile units that travel to areas of demand.

  • This design illustrates a future where communities have higher levels of regionalized activities, smaller scale of services, higher use of shared transportation, and more flexible network of supply and demand.

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Each community block is a courtyard for reconfigurable community hubs that can be formatted to include a variety of different functions: from retail stores, to vertical farms, medical services, and community warehouses.

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In the graph is a cluster unit where mobile service pods travel into a block to complement residential housing and stationary services inside. The shape of the block allows higher interconnectivity between communities, and at the same time creates optimum walkability, allows for less than 5 min walk to reach the center

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The blocks can form different configurations based on block functions. allowing for privacy in residential area and open flow for public spaces

Higher Pedestrian Activity


Underground Highway

Ground level lane for modular services

Pedestrian bridges across blocks

As resources become more accessible, there is less need for dense automobile roads. Therefore, we limit the traffic to the outside of the blocks, creating only a few transport roads for moving services in the block, thus creating space for pedestrian

We designate module lanes on the surface level for light traffic around the blocks, and the underground highways for heavy traffic and larger modules


Mobility Pattern Of Modular Facilities/Services

The mobile hub's navigational rules are designed based on bacteria's communication and navigational behaviors. 
Within this transportation system, modular services would travel through underground roads and emerge to ground level once they reach the designated block.

When higher needs are present in case of disasters or large social events, services under contract can be informed to move towards those areas. as they move through the city, they send out signals to similar services to inform them of the emergency need.

Services also communicate as they travel to coordinate and distribute themselves in an area to reach the group's overrall optimum travel time.

After modules reach the neighborhood, they would follow their designated lanes to the corresponding parking spots. A module can schedule multiple parking spaces to travel to throughout the week

What Are The Mobile Modules Like?

The design of modules are flexible to accommodate different service functions.

They can be extendable, self contained, or organized into skeleton structures.

Different workflow can be applied to different services. Allowing them to operate at varying degree of mobility to cover different radius.

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User Flow For Business Owners Within Mobile Modules

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Here small business owners can register their business online and purchase a module to be customized based on their needs.

After registration, they have access to real-time updates on the residents' needs. These data are collected by different services and distributed to business owners so that they can move towards areas of high business opportunities.

Systems Within A Community Block

The block system aims to promote more regionalized interaction and smaller scale of services

Green space is organized according to the mobility pattern of the block. encourage more organic form of green space development, and higher interactivity between people and nature.

Each community block is reconfigurable and can include different functional pods, from kitchen, to community warehouses. 
Mobile services and temporary activities are organized towards the center of the block and along the transportation pathways.

Scenario 1: Small Businesses and Open Market

The mobile system encourage flexible organization and collaboration between small businesses. Businesses can form many forms of configurations including vertical and circular arrangement.

2021SP. Adaptive Ecologies Final Project
2021SP. Adaptive Ecologies Final Project

Scenario 2: Entertainment and Recreational

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Scenario 3: Health & Medical Services


Mobile medical pods could form a flexible network that interconnect with each other and form medical centers in case of a pandemic.

They could also connect with stationary hospitals to share medical resource through vertical parking system and have more communal engagement in healthcare


Different forms of medical services can all play an active role in this mobile network. allowing for more accessible healthcare and higher flexibility in times of crisis. These types of services range from family doctor clinic, to self operating telehealth pods, to pharmacies, and they network among themslves responsive to specific local health needs .

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There are a number of actors we can consider, and depending on the nature of the service, different program can be applied. A family clinic, for example, can be stationary and a pharmacy, can be on wheels, they would also be distributed to a section of a cluster, or a whole cluster as well as having different method of navigation and communication networks.

Scenario 4: Education


Implementation Of This Urban Project

This urban system could be implemented as a brownfield project by replacing existing neighborhood blocks with a few modular service blocks, it could also take form as a greenfield urban landscapes by intertconnecting blocks through a mobility network.

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