From tree bark and crustaceans’ shells to silkworms and human breath, nature has influenced Neri Oxman’s design and production processes, just as it has influenced architects across centuries. Unlike her predecessors, however, throughout her 20-year career Oxman has developed not only new ways of thinking about materials, objects, buildings, and construction processes, but also new frameworks for interdisciplinary—and even interspecies—collaborations.
As a professor of media arts and sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, she founded and directs the Mediated Matter Group. She coined the term “material ecology” to describe techniques and objects that are informed by and directly engage with the structures, systems, and aesthetics of nature. Integrating advanced 3-D printing techniques with in-depth research of natural phenomena and behaviors, material ecology operates at the intersection of biology, engineering, materials science, and computer science. While individually these works are beautiful and revolutionary, taken as a group they constitute a new philosophy of designing, making—and even unmaking—the world around us.
The seven projects in this exhibition are “demos” for a library of materials and processes that might someday be available to all architects and designers. The objects and structures are all designed as if grown—with no assembly required. Together, they celebrate a new age in which biology, architecture, engineering, and design join forces to build the future.
Organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, and Director, Research and Development; and Anna Burckhardt, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.