New materials are allowing a thinness and economy in architecture.” – Wallace Cunningham, San Diego based residential architect
This economy speaks not only to stylistic minimalism, but also to a reduced weight of resources needed to build a structure. Lightweight concrete, carbon fibers and cable structures incorporated into the architecture add a streamlined elegance, while reducing the environmental footprint.
The guiding principle to Cunningham’s work, stated on his website, is “Open up a structure to the undulating space of sky, landscape, and view, and the building becomes an ever evolving organism”. His exploratory design engages the surrounding natural environment, increasing our appreciation of it.
Inspired by patterns of global human migration and pilgrimage, merging with environmental concerns, the Flock House Project (2012) at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts is a group of mobile, sculptural, public habitats and self-contained ecosystems that are movable, modular, and scalable. This multi-phase project is part fantastic and part practical. It proposes a creative design solution to political and economic sustainability and border anxiety with migratory homes that are autonomous systems for rainwater collection and food production. It envisions a future where these mobile modular units are building blocks of community.
The Flock House Project was constructed and presented in New York City, NY (2012 – 2015) locations including Battery Park in Manhattan, the Bronx Museum of the Arts in the Bronx, 125 Maiden Lane in Manhattan, Seward Park in Manhattan, Pearl Street Triangle in Brooklyn, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.
Susan Knight’s work focuses on ecological water issues ranging from the devastating breakdown of the ecosystem in the Great Lakes to worldwide nitrate contamination in groundwater. Knight uses common materials like paper and Mylar in repetitive ways – cutting, folding, tying and stretching to create visual forms about dramatic ecological issues and to transform perception.
Her fiber work Contours and Thickness was part of the Global Threads exhibition at the Kaneko in 2015.
The artist collected the cigarette butts and chewing gum of the streets of New York then sequenced the DNA to make and exhibition of faces of strangers modeling on the DNA information. How much can we tell from DNA?
One of the strangest exhibits at the opening of “Design and the Elastic Mind,” the very strange show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that explores the territory where design meets science, was a teeny coat made out of living mouse stem cells. The “victimless leather” was kept alive in an incubator with nutrients, unsettlingly alive. Until recently, that is.
Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at the museum, had to kill the coat. “It was growing too much,” she said in an interview from a conference in Belgrade. The cells were multiplying so fast that the incubator was beginning to clog. Also, a sleeve was falling off. So after checking with the coat’s creators, a group known as SymbioticA, at the School of Anatomy & Human Biology at the University of Western Australia in Perth, she had the nutrients to the cells stopped.
Though she has said “I felt cruel when I turned it off,” Ms. Antonelli said in the more recent interview that it was, essentially, a simple decision tinged with a bit of regret. “It was the only piece in the show that was alive,” she said. “It really was an amazing piece.”
Oron Catts, director of SymbioticA, said in an e-mail interview that he “particularly liked what happened at the MoMA,” with its slightly Frankensteinian sensibility of “life growing out of control.” The need to shut the exhibit fit in with the group’s overarching goal “to present the end of our projects in ways that remind people that these works are/were alive and that we have a responsibility towards the living systems that we engage in manipulating,” he wrote. Besides, he added, “the piece was able to regain some of its irony that was lost” when it was put in the context of what he characterized as an “optimistic design show.”
By Neri Oxman
2014, 3D Print
Euromold, Frankfurt, Germany
Named after the Roman deity Mercury (Arabic: Otaared عطارد), the messenger to the gods, the planet Mercury lacks any atmosphere, making it susceptible to impacts over its entire surface. The expression mercurial is typically used to refer to something or someone erratic, volatile or unstable, derived from Mercury’s swift flights from place to place. Otaared is designed as antler-like extensions of the scapulae to protect the head. The 3D printed structure is computationally grown from the scapulae and the sternum outward generating a branched winged exoskeleton. The printed shell is designed to contain calcifying bacteria grown within a wearable Caduceus. The ultimate goal is to grow true bone structures acting as protective exoskeleton.
The lamps consist of plant fibre and mushroom-mycelium. The lamp is grown into shape during a period of 2-3 weeks, where the mushroom mycelium grows together the plant fibres into a flexible and soft living textile. After 2 weeks you can harvest the healthy Oyster mushrooms. The waste product ‘shaped as a lamp’ can then be dried and used as a lightweight material, that is both organic, compostable and sustainable.
The mushroom mycelium stabilizes the construction by physically growing together the material behaving as a glue between the fibres. The MYX consists of waste – the mushroom organism comes from a commercial mushroom farm and the plant fibres is a leftover material from the textile industry, MYX is a optimized end-waste product with a nutritious food product during the growing cycle.