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Buildings With Skin and Wearable Digestive Systems: How Neri Oxman Is Revolutionizing the Relationship Between Biology and Design

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Buildings With Skin and Wearable Digestive Systems: How Neri Oxman Is Revolutionizing the Relationship Between Biology and Design
The MIT professor's new show "Material Ecology" is open now at the Museum of Modern Art.
Dr. Neri Oxman. Photo Credit: Noah Kalina, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
The designer and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Neri Oxman has spent the last 20 years of her career thinking about new ways to live. She pushes at the boundaries between theoretical and functional design, the built environment and the natural one. She has conceptualized workable things that feel like they shouldn’t exist for another hundred years: a wearable digestive system of photosynthetic bacteria that processes solar energy into sugar, for instance, or energy modulating liquid resin tiles inspired by the way the single structures of some organisms perform double or even triple duty—an example of what she calls “materials that think.”

Neri Oxman harnesses the powers of 17,000 silkworms for New York show

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An army of 17,000 silkworms have been busily at work in Padua, Italy, creating
Silk Pavilion II, a towering hyperboloid—a shape that resembles a cylinder with a cinched waist—that is to be the centrepiece of a Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) show dedicated to the Israeli-born architect and designer, Neri Oxman.
The project is the kind of “collaboration or partnership”, says the exhibition’s curator Paola Antonelli, that is at the core of Oxman’s self-coined design practice of “Material Ecology”. This practice “was always about putting together the natural, the human and the robotic,” Antonelli says. “It was about computation, the inputs of the human being as the architect, and then natural phenomenon. What’s changed today is the balance” of those three actors, the curator explaines.

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