A radical realignment between grown and built environments

Neri Oxman is an American–Israeli architect and designer known for pioneering the field of Material Ecology. Formerly a tenured professor at MIT, founder and director of The Mediated Matter Group; she now runs her own lab, called Oxman, in Manhattan.

She discussed her manifesto and accompanying film Nature x Humanity in a live interview.

“How might we leverage design to mediate between biology and technology, the lab and the garden, nature and humanity?” the designer asked.

According to Oxman, by “embracing complexity and diversity across systems and scales in design, we open ourselves to advancing beyond mere maintenance towards the betterment of nature.”

Oxman uses wheel diagrams to outline modes of creativity (1920 – Bauhuas & 2020 – KCC)

“In a world where human-made materials are biocompatible, designed products are indistinguishable from naturally grown produce.” Using “programmed decomposition,” materials can rejoin the ecosystem, where they can fuel new growth. “This, in turn, empowers ecosystem resource cycles rather than depleting them,” she says.

“By placing a multiplicity in the form of an ‘X’ between NATURE and HUMANITY, we call for a radical realignment between grown and built environments, with the hope and conviction that humanity has the power not only to restore, recover, and replenish the natural world but to empower it.”

The Nature x Humanity project calls for a new way of thinking about design practice

NURTURING [NU]. We call for a shift in how we perceive clientele and commercial viability, turning nature into a co-client within the design practice [I]. Nature-centric design invites the creation and delivery of design solutions at the service of nature while advancing humanity [II]. Activist design utilizes technology stakes in urging commissioning corporations to implement nature-centric values across the design, construction, and manufacturing industries [III].

NATURING [NA]. We foster design practices that prioritize growth over assembly [IV]. System-centric design considers any design construct — wearable, product or building — a system of quantified interrelations across natural, biological, and digital domains [V]. Platform technologies are the means to position the scientific method and technological innovation as the kernel of the architectural practice, revisiting timeworn typologies [VI].

NU/NA. We prioritize difference over repetition and customization over mass production [VII]. Cross-scale hierarchical design integrates design workflows in which matter is consumed through the ecosystem which sprouted it. [VIII] Programmed decomposition is the framework in which decay is designed by encoding materials to rejoin an ecosystem’s resource cycle in order to fuel new growth. This, in turn, empowers ecosystem resource cycles rather than depleting them [IX].

This work continues on the Krebs Cycle for Creativity, Neri Oxman developed @ MIT some years ago, and published in the JODS as “Age of Entanglement“:

To every age, a relic: a loom, an automobile, the PC, a 3D printer.  L’Encyclopédie undefined was its period’s signpost, cataloguing and concretizing the boundaries between the disciplines, which emerged from the “long eighteenth century” of the Enlightenment.
For the next quarter of a millennium, we remained indoctrinated to the shibboleths of this relic, operating within discrete silos-of-thought. At the dawn of the new millennium, the meme “antidisciplinary” appeared, yanking us out of Aristotle’s shadow and into a new ‘Age of Entanglement.’

Neri defines four domains of creative exploration—Science, Engineering, Design and Art—in an attempt to represent the antidisciplinary hypothesis: that knowledge can no longer be ascribed to, or produced within, disciplinary boundaries, but is entirely entangled.

The Krebs Cycle of Creativity (KCC) is a map that describes the perpetuation of creative energy
(creative ATP or ‘CreATP’), analogous to the Krebs Cycle proper.
In this analogy, the four modalities of human creativity
Science, Engineering, Design and Art— replace the Krebs Cycle’s carbon compounds.
Each of the modalities (or ‘compounds‘) produces ‘currency’ by transforming into another.

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