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ADS3: Refuse Trespassing Our Bodies – The Right to Breathe

Yu Hin Chun

Yu Hin Chun is a designer, photographer (@yuhinfilm) and artist who is based in Hong Kong and London. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Architecture at the Leicester School of Architecture, and worked in the architectural field for a year in Hong Kong where he had participated in a wide variety of projects, which included residential, commercial and cultural projects.

After working in Hong Kong, he started his master’s degree in Architecture at the Royal College of Art where he would develop his interests in practicing sustainable designs through multiple disciplines. He explores his interests in spatial design, photography and fashion through experimenting in his works. His project in ADS3, follows cadmium to explore the anthropogenic effects of the denim and fashion industry in China. The project redesigns the architecture of the denim to address cadmium pollution through rethinking the denim fibre, pigment, machineries, production processes, factories, landscapes and eventually our bodies.

Denim uses twill weaving, which contains characteristically diagonal patterns called “wales”, allowing the yarn to be compact, tightly together, making it stronger and thicker. This allows soil to hide better than the same materials made from the plain weave, which was originally produced for miners and workers.

Historically and culturally, this fabric represents the lifestyles of miners and cowboys, later perceived as the sign of intellectuals during the 1940’s. Denim is popular not just because of its structural integrity, but also its cultural richness much like  twill weaving.

However, the rise of fast fashion changed the meaning of a pair of jeans. Consumers are no longer searching for the functionality of jeans, but rather the aesthetic, low cost and trendiness of the product. Thus retailers search for low cost, fast production factories to meet such demand, migrating from the US to Mexico and eventually China, Indonesia and Bangladesh, countries with less strict environmental regulations than the United States.

The East River in Xintang, near the Pearl River Delta, has been dyed blue and peculiar smells indicate how factories pour untreated dye water into the river. The township government attempted to “clean up” the city by planning to move 80 factories to the Xinzhou Environmental Industry Park. However, many remaining factories did not know how to get rid of their waste water, hence they secretly poured it back into their river. Recently, Greenpeace published a survey revealing that at three sampling sites in Xintang, the amount of cadmium in the riverbed within one of the samples of the river mud concentrated 128 times over the national environmental standards.

The metabolic pathway of a pair of worn denim is similar to our environment. As we wear denim, its indigo molecules chip off and the dye stays in the intersection of the strings. Same as our environment, the cotton string acts as the river and the indigo molecule as cadmium. While cadmium molecules flow through the river, they get trapped in farmland and inside the bodies of organisms., Much like the conjuncture of the woven weave of our jeans, fast fashion pollutants weave the environment with our bodies. In a rice-field in Dongguan, near Xintang, rice contains 4 times more cadmium than the safety limit,1000 milligrams of cadmium are trapped in 1 Ha of rice. Bioaccumulation occurs when an animal accumulates cadmium-polluted food from the environment into its body. Biomagnification of cadmium occurs when the concentration of cadmium increases from one link to another, which also applies to the human body, damaging our kidneys and accelerating bone demineralization. Relocating factories without changing the production of denim, it simply migrates the pollution elsewhere. Redesigning the product and the production process seems to be the best approach for the project.

“The Bacteria Denim Factory” is proposed as an alternative denim production process to address water pollution from the fashion industry in China. Focusing on the color blue, this project aims to phase out all usage of hazardous substances during the production process. This project explores post-industrial metabolism through the future of denim. Using “Bacteria Dyeing” as the backbone, it offers a multiscale architectural proposal to rethink and redesign a new denim manufacturing process. This is done by identifying the new proposed yarn as the habitat of coloring bacteria rethinking machineries and spatial relationships in the factory.

The existing bacteria dyeing method — The fabric is first soaked in a bacterial broth with a high concentration of E-coli. Secondly, bacteria culture is applied directly on the fabric and placed inside a petri-dish that would supply nutrients for the bacteria to grow. Afterwards, the petri-dish is placed inside the incubator, which provides a perfect environment for the bacteria to grow, with a temperature around 27-30 degree Celsius within a dark space. Thirdly, after enough bacteria have developed on fabric, it goes through a bath.
The new proposed yarn — To avoid such uneven results, the project proposes a new yarn made out of sugar and cotton, which recreates the relationship between the fabric and the petri dish. The cotton yarn soaks up the bacterial culture and provides a surface for the bacteria to grow on, while the sugar yarn provides nutrients for this process.
The proposed Bacteria Dyeing process (Industralize)
The existing dyeing method (rope dyeing) — To trap the iconic blue dye into the fabric, large amounts of extremely hot and chemical-laden water are used and discharged straight into the East river.

Existing denim production is extremely toxic. To trap the iconic blue dye into the fabric, large amounts of extremely hot and chemical-laden water are used and discharged straight into the East river. Water treatment plants cannot cope with most of these chemicals and heavy metals like cadmium, which bypass the treatment process and enter our food chain. Cleaning up our landscape and our bodies is extremely difficult. Redesigning both the product and the production process aims to achieve zero discharge.

Dyeing with E. Coli bacteria is a harmless alternative to cadmium, and the colour can regenerate itself directly onto the fabric. At the same time, 500 times less water is used compared to the current approach.

For the existing bacteria-dyeing method, the fabric is first soaked in a bacterial broth with a high concentration of E-coli. Secondly, bacteria culture is applied directly on the fabric, and placed inside a petri-dish that would supply nutrients for the bacteria to grow. Afterwards, the petri-dish is placed inside the incubator, which provides a perfect environment for the bacteria to grow, with a temperature around 27-30 degree Celsius within a dark space. Thirdly, after enough bacteria have developed on the fabric, it goes through a bath to wash off unused bacteria. Then the fabric is heated to dry

Bacteria-dyeing creates uncontrollable results, as the bacteria grow organically resulting in uneven color; more importantly, it does not create the diagonal “Wales,” a distinctive feature in denim. 

To avoid such uneven results, the project proposes a new yarn made out of sugar and cotton, which recreates the relationship between the fabric and the petri dish. The cotton yarn soaks up the bacterial culture and provides a surface for the bacteria to grow on, while the sugar yarn provides nutrients for this process.

Machine (incubation tank) — Incubation tanks provide space and habitat for the bacteria, including the roller, which is used to apply bacteria culture onto the yarn during production.
Bacteria Room — The bacteria room provides spaces for the incubation tanks, and an insulated bacteria wall as the heart of the factory, providing growing surfaces and storage for the bacteria dyes. This space is also used as a data and back-up centre.
Incubation Hall/Balcony — On an industrial level, the yarn is placed onto racks in order to develop pigments. To ensure the perfect environment for the bacteria to develop colour, an additional structure is built to protect the process. Triangular balconies are designed to create an incubation space for the yarn. This process requires darkness to produce the colour blue as the bacteria is very sensitive to sun-light.
Incubation Hall/Balcony — The balconies are connected so workers and visitors can walk through the entire production process, and monitor colour change. Simultaneously, each balcony can also be used for different purposes like utility spaces, exhibitions or as a viewing platform.

Different sizes of incubators provide the perfect habitat for the bacteria to produce the color blue.

1.Incubation tanks provide space and habitat for the bacteria, including the roller, which is used to apply bacteria culture onto the yarn during production.

2.The bacteria room provides spaces for the incubation tanks, and an insulated bacteria wall as the heart of the factory, providing growing surfaces and storage for the bacteria dyes. This space is also used as a data and back-up centre.

3.On an industrial level, the yarn is placed onto racks in order to develop pigments. To ensure the perfect environment for the bacteria to develop colour, an additional structure is built to protect the process. Triangular balconies are designed to create an incubation space for the yarn.

This process requires darkness to produce the colour blue as the bacteria is very sensitive to sun-light.

Additionally, the correct environment to control the colour blue is crucial. As a result, the incubation hall stays within 27-30 degrees C all year around, insulated by recycled denim to prevent cold winter temperatures, while the roof structure provides ventilation to prevent overheating in the summer heat. 

The balconies are connected so workers and visitors can walk through the entire production process, and monitor colour change. Simultaneously, each balcony can also be used for different purposes like utility spaces, exhibitions or as a viewing platform.




The Drying Room — Given that, the bacteria is very sensitive to sunlight, it produces less pigment lighter colour after sun exposure.
Facade and the worn-look — Using it as an advantage, the screens in each section of the drying space allow different amounts of sunlight on the denim, creating a different wash and shade according to the different designs of the sunscreen.
The workers spaces — The workers spaces

To create the worn-denim look, stone-washing or sand-blasting are popular methods. However, stone-washing consumes large amounts of water, and sand blasting damages the worker’s respiratory system.

This drawing shows an alternative solution to create the iconic worn looks. 

Given that, the bacteria is very sensitive to sunlight, it produces less pigment lighter colour after sun exposure.

Using it as an advantage, the screens in each section of the drying space allow different amounts of sunlight on the denim, creating a different wash and shade according to the different designs of the sunscreen.




Sugarcane field and The Bacteria Factory — Furthermore, the new factory typology incorporates the planting of sugarcane in its surroundings to absorb the cadmium from previous activity (still in the soil), while providing raw material to create the sugar yarn and nutrients for the bacteria to grow.
The toxic landscape ( Existing site) — In this project, my site is located in an existing dyeing factories which is currently polluting the east river, in Xintang, Pearl River Delta, Guangdong, China . This gave me an opportunities to rethink the future of production in an existing context as a result I am redesigning the architecture of the denim to address the cadmium pollution by rethinking the fibre, pigment, machinery, production process, the factories, the landscape and eventually our body.

Furthermore, the new factory typology incorporates the planting of sugarcane in its surroundings to absorb the cadmium from previous activity (still in the soil), while providing raw material to create the sugar yarn and nutrients for the bacteria to grow.

In Xintang many factories are still using cadmium dyes polluting the river, therefore this project provides an alternative denim production from the microscopic scale all the way up to the industrial scale that can be replicated across the region.



The sunlight and the colour blue (Lighting Plan) — This process requires darkness and the right temperature to produce the colour blue as the bacteria is very sensitive to sun-light. The darker the room and closer to the room temperature is the darker the blue would be.
Construction Sequence
Construction Sequence — The construction sequence of the demolition of the factory that is currently polluting the East River, and the construction of the future factory that produce the bacteria denim.
Ground floor Plan (Machinery)
Site Plan
River Site Plan/The new interventions — In Xintang many factories are still using cadmium dyes polluting the river, therefore this project provides an alternative denim production from the microscopic scale all the way up to the industrial scale that can be replicated across the region.
Light Blue
Dark Blue
Dark Blue
Dark Blue
Dark Blue
Washed Blue
Washed Blue
Light Blue

The narrative of and the experiences in "The Bacteria Denim Factory"