Design Inspired Nature
The network of objects in our lives always carries some type of meaning. From tools to mementos, these artifacts hold different value in the context of our daily life. This meaning changes over the course of the object’s lifespan, influencing both humans and other lifeforms. What if objects were designed …
The network of objects in our lives always carries some type of meaning. From tools to mementos, these artifacts hold different value in the context of our daily life. This meaning changes over the course of the object’s lifespan, influencing both humans and other lifeforms. What if objects were designed at each phase of its existence, from development to decomposition? The environment would change drastically if the materials of everyday objects could nourish nature.
Neri Oxman and a group of researchers at the MIT mediated matter group have developed a water-based digital fabrication platform using a renewable polymer from the ocean. The process combines an age-old crustacean-derived material with robotic fabrication and synthetic biology. From beams to meshes to windows, the versatile material can behave like a tree and nourish life around it. This additive method of creation resembles the growth of the organic world from micro to macro scale. It is a system that can vary in functionality within the same skin, without an assembly line of disconnected parts. Will this new material ecology inspire design to transform from nature-inspired design to a design-inspired nature?
A section from the group’s research:
‘the structures are made of a single material system derived from chitin – the most abundant renewable polymer in the ocean, and the second most abundant polymer on the planet. ground arthropod shells are transformed into chitosan, a chitin derivative, to form a variable property aqueous solution. once printed, constructs are form-found through evaporation patterns given by the geometrical arrangement of structural members, and by the hierarchical distribution of material properties. controlled wrinkling follows. each component will find its shape upon contact with air, and biodegrade upon contact with water. living matter in the form of cyanobacteria is coated and impregnated onto chitosan samples to enable surface functionalization and impart additional properties such as water resistance and conductivity.’
All images ©Neri Oxman