Neri Oxman (6 February 1976) – best known as a triple-threat architect, designer, and artist – is an American–Israeli professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she leads the Mediated Matter research group. She is known for art and architecture that combine design, biology, computing, and materials engineering. From 3-D printing exoskeletons to creating biodegradable architecture, the MIT Media Lab professor is pioneering new hybrids of engineering and biology.

Her work embodies environmental design and digital morphogenesis, with shapes and properties that are determined by their context. She coined the phrase “material ecology” to define her work, placing materials in context. Stylistic trademarks include brightly colored and textured surfaces with structure at many scales, and composite materials whose hardness, color, and shape vary over an object. The results are often designed to be worn or touched, and inspired by nature and biology.

Many of Oxman’s projects use 3D printing and fabrication techniques. They include the Silk Pavilion, spun by silkworms released onto a nylon frame, Ocean Pavilion, a water-based fabrication platform that built structures out of chitosan, G3DP, the first 3D printer for optically transparent glass and a set of glasswork produced by it, and collections of 3D-printed clothing and wearables worn in couture shows and performances.

These bubbling “wearables,” as they say in material ecology, are designed to sustain human life in outer space.

Just as Zaha Hadid was, Neri Oxman is a highly visible woman in an otherwise male-dominated field. Their work doesn’t just comprise a rare talent; it’s ingrained in rigorous labor and perseverance.  Although Hadid — the late Iraqi-born architect and grande dame of architectural asymmetry — and the Israeli-born, Boston-based designer had never met, their work shares a common ground: an original research into the secrets of the natural world. The work of both has, in turn, translated into formidable new expressions of material and form.

Ocean Pavilion: Water-based digital fabrication platform using a renewable polymer from the ocean.

To Oxman, Hadid’s legacy is the prelude to a much larger revolution currently sweeping through the design world: the departure from biomimicry — imitations of models, systems, and elements of nature — toward the realm of bio-informed design (put simply: the augmentation of objects and buildings with biological materials that can adapt, respond, and potentially interact with their surroundings). Imagine you buy flowers and put them in a vase that can fertilize them, change color according to their lifecycle, and help them biodegrade after they’ve withered. Oxman calls it “Material Ecology” — a term she coined at the very beginning of her academic career, and that still remains relevant.

Material ecology marries the technological advances of computational design, synthetic biology and 3-D printing to produce startling-looking, multifunctional structures, like these sheaves of chitin, a compostable material derived from shrimp shells. In the foreground, silk worms are spinning on tiny platforms.

Among the products already produced in the lab are fully recyclable grocery bags, wearable objects, and early experiments at an architectural scale, structural creations more than 12 feet tall. All of which are completely biodegradable when put into contact with water.

‘The silk pavilion’ explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication on product and architectural scales.

Most recently, Oxman has been working on the development of 3-D glass printers, deploying molten glass in a layer-by-layer fashion. The first version of the printer was released last year; the lab is currently at work on the second one. This is potentially one of the most commercially exciting projects in the lab, with direct implications for architecture. The printer allows Oxman and her team to manufacture multifunctional glass structures and facade elements.

Her next challenge: to step outside of the laboratory and apply her research to an architectural scale. Although Oxman has previously worked for firms both in Israel and the U.K., she has never led the construction of a large-scale building, nor has she run her own architectural practice. But she has a leg up: The necessary specialized software and 3-D printers she uses are available to only a small fragment of the world’s architects and designers.

The Aguahoja Pavilion — this tall, honey-skinned cocoon structure — is composed of the most abundant biopolymers on the planet. molecules found in insect exoskeletons, tree branches and yes, even components found in our own bones were printed by a robot, shaped by water and formed into this organic tower

Source: surfacemag.com

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