One of my first architectural impressions as a child was Buckminster Fuller’s dome in Montreal. Having always had a soft spot for it, I was drawn to a video of students conducting a laboratory experiment to see if silkworms could be used as biological printers to create the infill structure of a dome. That team is led by MIT Media Lab’s Neri Oxman, whose research group focuses on material ecology, which considers computation, fabrication, and the material itself as inseparable dimensions of design.
Watching the team shepherd thousands of silkworms and seeing the poetic pattern created by the insects’ efforts sparked my interest in Oxman’s work. Where a typical design effort might start with context and budget, her methodology takes materials exploration to a new level: Products and buildings are biologically informed and digitally engineered by, with, and for nature.