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Co-healing: A War Monument Symbolizing the Public Healing After Trauma

Fatma Merve Fettahoğlu Karpov

Published Aug 7, 2020


Bio-design is a step beyond bio-mimicry and refers to using actual organisms as a vital component in the design project. Biologists and bio-engineers are currently researching functional use for bacteria, yeast, algae, and several other micro-organisms in materials, in hopes of contributing to a more sustainable future. One of the newest outcomes of their efforts is self-healing concrete. Self-healing concrete uses bacterial calcification as a principal. It gives life to concrete: the cracks that develop over time are filled with the efforts of bacteria in the mixture as shown in figure 1.

Designers can use their creativity to enhance the effects of such materials to make a statement, to develop an interest in the subject, and perhaps sustainable methods of living. In such an effort, the “healing” of the concrete, is turned into a symbol of a more abstract “healing”, the “healing” of a society after a major traumatic incident.

Terror attacks, mass shootings, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, natural disasters, etc. leave the public scarred and there needs to be an upscale effort to mend the wounds. Monuments are built, either to remind of the pain -hoping to prevent similar devastation in the future- or to show solidarity with the victims.

With the use of self-healing concrete in a monument, it is possible to visualize mending wounds by mending the cracked concrete. And making people initiate the process of calcification assigns the healing power to them, strengthening the idea of solidarity. This could potentially start a new ritual, meaningful as a personal and public experience.


The material needs to be refined after deciding the concept. The concept requires an activation moment for the self-healing attribute of the material, so the monument can reflect the interaction of the people. The microorganisms should be able to fill deep and large cracks in a short amount of time, so the healing can be visible.

To match the requirements, self-healing concrete is equipped with both polymers and iron as well as bacteria. Polymers (an organic one made of mytilus edulis) cover the bacteria only to release them after dissolving in water. Iron makes the material stronger. Altogether, they make the material

durable, and capable of healing up to cracks that are 5 mm large and 20 mm deep; after interaction with water and food.


Walking, reaching to the magical object, interacting with it while hoping and praying for change... This set of actions is inspired by the mystical and traditional rituals of Weeping Column in Hagia Sophia and Al-Hajar Al-Aswad in Makkah. Figure 2 shows a simple model made of clay, playing with the interaction and the experience. Simply, the user is ascending to serve a greater cause and gets an intimate moment with the magical object, finding a moment to face their position in public and their willingness to overcome the challenges, and despair caused by the trauma, and see their efforts are not useless.


Scaling the ritual procession to a grand human path for healing enables an interactive, multi-sensory experience. The bio-concrete disc is placed at the core of a shell structure as seen in figure 4. The temple becomes an up-scaled pebble in a river- the river of life. The procession takes one from the outside of the temple to the bottom of the water as a move towards humility and the source of life. The healing water is gathered with a bowl at the base of the temple. The procession then takes you inside the temple all following the same winding re-curving path. Just as in life, as we cover points we seem to perceive as past, we ourselves are new. As you go in the circles of the path you pass over similar points, but you are now further along the path, and now you have the means to action- the water. Inside the temple shell, the goal of the reinvigorating concrete is illuminated via an oculus, figure 5. The light is refracted around the interior of the shell making it the sole source of revelation, reliant on nature, just like the water from the stream. The water is poured onto the concrete, thus healing it. Upon completion of this task of revival, the procession elevates the visitor higher in the shell so you can reflect on your deeds. At this point, the empty bowl is dropped back to the stream through a void. The audible ting reverberates through the shell, marking the conclusion of the cycle. As people use the bowls, the ware on them will mark a noticeable continuity of use, and this haptic connection, while they are carried, will be a reminder of those who made the pilgrimage before. The path makes a final winding sweep to the exit, figure 3. The void to leave the procession exposes the outside world first, as the rest of the temple fades away from the sides as you make your exit, figure 6. This procession marks a full cycle. A process of multiple repeating circles exploring the sensory immersion with a hyper-focus on the goal. Even after the deed is accomplished and the concrete is healed, the process is not finished. The linear procession is about the heightening of the senses. The form of the temple provides the austerity, the smooth, infinite continuum. The only breaks in the shell being avenues for people to enter, exit, and for light and sound to fill the interior of the shell, holding the precious core. The heart to be healed.

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