Integrating biological systems into art and design

By using the term “biodesign” we seek to capture not only the variety of ways in which the natural world can inform art and design projects, the use of natural materials in design, but also the notion of nature as designer, and the promotion of understanding the processes, materials, and organizing principles that result in the myriad forms, patterns, and relationships we see in the living world. It is only by seeing ourselves and our work as fundamentally integrated with nature that we will be able to achieve true sustainability.

Biodesign Makerspace

This space is RISD’s new headquarters for the teaching about, fabrication of, and experimentation with biomaterials: materials made from living or once living tissues. Because biomaterial study is so new and still considered a niche by most, the role of the Nature Lab’s Biodesign Maker Space is more than a studio for students to build. It also functions as an ambassador for the potential of biomaterials. The design attracts both those people who are well versed in biomimicry, as well as the ones not privy to the field. The room showcases practical examples of the materials used in fabrication, and also shows off their wondrous ability to embellish and liven a space. The design uses as many natural, recyclable, and sustainably sourced materials as possible. They appear in places both familiar like the local responsibly forested wood tabletops, and unusual like the white foamy fungus-based laminate on the shelves.

Biodesign: From Inspiration to Integration

Curated in collaboration with William Myers, this exhibition showcased recent examples of design and art that inform our complex relationship with nature and help us decipher how it may evolve in the future.

On opening day, we hosted a half-day symposium that brought together international artists, designers, scientists and educators for talks, discussions and presentations on topics such as valuing non-human forms of life as collaborators, artistic and scientific modes of inquiry, and ethical considerations in bioart and biodesign practices.

CLICK HERE to read the Biodesign: From Inspiration to Integration Catalogue

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