Tune in Thursday, May 14, at 8:00 p.m. EDT for a live Q&A with Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, and Director, Research and Development; and designer, artist, and professor Neri Oxman, about the exhibition Neri Oxman: Material Ecology, as part of MOMA’s Virtual Views initiative.
From tree bark and crustacean shells to silkworm webs and human breath, nature shapes Neri Oxman’s innovative design and production processes. As a designer, architect, and founding director of The Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab, Oxman has developed not only new ways of thinking about materials, objects, buildings, and construction methods, but also new frameworks for interdisciplinary—and even interspecies—collaborations.
Her pioneering approach, which she calls “material ecology,” brings together materials science, digital fabrication (mostly additive manufacturing) technologies, and organic design, to create new possibilities for the future. While individually these works are beautiful and revolutionary, together they put forward a new philosophy of designing, making—and even unmaking—the world around us.
Through her work, Professor Oxman has been exploring how the Digital Age is enabling engineering and production at Mother Nature’s quantum scale, ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the Biological Age. She has done this through several projects which pushed the boundaries of manufacturing through multiple material 3D printing (in particular through a collaboration with Stratasys).
This concept – summarized in the idea of Material Ecology – promotes the conceptualization of holistic products, characterized by property gradients and multi-functionality, and proposes a shift from consuming nature as a geological resource to editing it as a biological one.
The idea of growing objects is clear in the work of several designers experimenting with 3D printing such as studios Nervous Systems, Growth Objects and Emerging Objects. For Oxman “top-down form generation (additively manufactured) combined with bottom-up growth of biological systems (biologically synthesized) opens previously impossible opportunities: photosynthetic building façades that convert carbon into biofuel; wearable micro-biomes that nourish our skin through selective filtration; 3D printed matter that repairs damaged tissue.”