Designing with Living Things


Recent advances in synthetic biology, together with a renewed interest in engaging with living materials, have motivated designers to question traditional ways of carrying out and understanding their practice. As designers start to consider materials that evolve, through time and as part of complex ecosystems, issues of form, function, user needs start to lose centrality.

Designing with Living Things explores what it means to live and design for a world where things have a life of their own, and where the lives of things become integrated with human practices, constructing new rituals. To explore these ideas, Anaïs Moisy, Shi Hui Tan and I designed three concepts:
a) a fabric that evolves according to seasons and human care,
b) a knife that is augmented with biological material to support consumption of specific foods and
c) a sink that, as a clock, signalises when a particular action is needed.

The three concepts reflect on the role of living things as a) actively integrated in human routines, b) passive producers of contents for consumption and finally c) as commensal co-habitants of the human environment.

This work had great amount of generous help from synthetic biologist Jamie Auxillos.




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