Surfaces Reporter|July - August 2020
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) housed “Neri Oxman: Material Ecology”, an exhibition featuring the work of architect, designer, and inventor Neri Oxman. Surfaces Reporter (SR) takes you to an exclusive tour of the exhibition. Write your comments to us at All Images Courtesy: The Museum of Modern Arts and MoMA

From tree bark and crustacean shells to silkworm webs and human breaths, nature has had a significant impact on Neri Oxman’s innovative design and production processes. Oxman is a professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, where she founded and directs The Mediated Matter Group. She has coined the term “material ecology” to explain her process of bringing together materials science, digital fabrication technologies, and organic design to produce techniques and objects informed by the structural, systemic, and aesthetic wisdom of nature.

Throughout her twenty years career, 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.

The exhibition includes seven major projects that Oxman has created in the course of her 20-year career. Through her work, Oxman has pioneered not only new ideas for materials, objects, buildings, and construction processes, but also frameworks for interdisciplinary—and interspecies—collaborations.

Neri Oxman at MoMA was organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, and Director, Research & Development; and Anna Burckhardt, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art.

Integrating computational form-generation with in-depth research of natural phenomena and behaviours, material ecology operates at the intersection of biology, engineering, and materials- and computer science. The configuration of the bark of birch trees, the characteristics of crustaceans’ shells, the behaviour of silkworms, the expressions of melanin, or the flow of human breath have generated new design and production processes.

While each research project is individually groundbreaking, taken as a group, they constitute a new philosophy of designing and making—and even unmaking—the world around us.

The projects selected for the exhibition are a demo for a library of originally conceived materials and processes that will in the future be available to all architects and designers.


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July - August 2020