530 results for “Hypernature”

Next Generation: Biophilic design with Daniel Elkayam

Freya Hutchings
October 29th 2019

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Meet Daniel Elkayam, a fresh-faced Industrial Design graduate, based in Jerusalem, Israel. For his graduation project MAYMA, Elkayam worked with algae in ways that implore us to "imagine a world in which we harness nature in our favor without harming it," as the …

NATURE: Where biology and design merge

NextNature.net
April 5th 2019

Cube Design Museum in Kerkrade and Cooper Hewitt in New York present the comprehensive exhibition NATURE - in which internationally renowned designers, artists and inventors present their perspective on nature. From biotechnology to datavisualization, from renewable energy to urban farming: NATURE shows the real impact of design and its ability to renew the balance between the born and the man-made.

New narratives

Nature is changing under the pressure of our contemporary human lifestyle. Subjects such as climate change, plastic soup …

In conversation with Studio Drift

Meike Schipper
April 5th 2019

A flock of drones that fly like birds, drifting blocks of concrete, a choreography of opening and closing flowers. The work of Studio Drift is challenging the distinction between the wonders of nature and the creations of man. Their work goes beyond replicating nature; it questions the very essence of it.  

Studio Drift combines the efforts of artists Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn. We are invited into their lively and spacious studio in Amsterdam, that is filled with installations …

How modern technology is inspired by the natural world

John A. Nychka
March 1st 2019

What do a kingfisher, cocklebur pods and a Namibian beetle have in common? Besides being living organisms, they have all served as inspiration for creative human technologies to solve challenging problems.

The kingfisher’s sleek beak spurred the streamlined nose design on high-speed trains in Japan. Cockleburs inspired the hook-and-loop fastener system Velcro. And the Namibian beetle’s back inspired a water-collection plant in the desert.

This is biomimicry. It is an approach to innovation, defined by the Biomimicry Institute as seeking: …

Lessons in bio design with Emma van der Leest

Meike Schipper
February 21st 2019

As a young bio designer at the start of your career, you'll have to overtake all kinds of obstacles. From the collection of living materials to working in a laboratory and collaborating with scientists; bio design is a newly emerging field in which you have to pave your own paths.

Meet biodesigner Emma van der Leest. Characterized by a DIY mentality, her multidisciplinary practice combines craft, scientific research and new bio-based production techniques.

Besides her own design practice, Emma founded …

Discover the art of the living at Centre Pompidou

NextNature.net
February 20th 2019

Go forward to nature at the La Fabrique du Vivant (the Factory of Life), the newly opened exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Exhibiting the recent works of fifty international creators, along with research from scientific laboratories, La Fabrique du Vivant brings together artists, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs in the course of a collective exhibition to examine the tilting concept of nature, as linked to technological production.

As biotechnologies are now a medium (more and more) used by artists, …

Three scenarios for the future of farming

Kelly Streekstra
October 8th 2018

Agriculture may be one of the oldest of our technologies. Over time it has developed, changed, revolutionized, industrialized - or simply put, it has evolved. Today’s farms are nothing like those of our grandparents. All the more reason to expect radical changes within our own lifetime. …

Aleph Farms wants to bring clean meat from the lab to the next farming industry

Kelly Streekstra
June 19th 2018

Growing meat artificially, instead of within an animal, may soon be an available reality. Meet one of the pioneering developers of this product of the future: Aleph Farms. With their innovative methods, they are better able to mimic the structure and texture of our well-known beef. But they want to go beyond just mimicking 'real' meat. We spoke with Didier Toubia, founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, who sparked our imagination with his idea of the next farming industry. Are …

Interview: Designer Shahar Livne is geomimicing the future of plastics

Kelly Streekstra
April 18th 2018

What if plastics one day become a rare commodity that we desire and mine from the depths of the earth’s crust? By that time, plastic would be a rather different material. Shahar Livne offers a fast-forward to this next nature, by artificially geomimicing metamorphisms. She shares with us her speculative material: the “lithoplast”.

In conversation with Teresa van Dongen, biodesigner exploring natural forms of artificial light

Kelly Streekstra
March 9th 2018

There was a time when flipping the switch, and seeing a glass bulb light up, was magical to anyone in the world. Today, the presence of a light switch in a room, is something intuitive, and perhaps even taken for granted. We spoke with Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen, who uses living organisms to power her lights. Having such a ‘living lamp’, means you’ll be taking care of small ecosystems of bacteria. In exchange, they will give you light.…

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This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Meet Daniel Elkayam, a fresh-faced Industrial Design graduate, based in Jerusalem, Israel. For his graduation project MAYMA, Elkayam worked with algae in ways that implore us to "imagine a world in which we harness nature in our favor without harming it," as the designer puts it.

Delving into the notion of biophilia — the belief that humans have an inherent tendency to make connections and form relationships with the natural world — Elkayam wonders about how humans relate to the natural world, and how the use of living materials may affect these (often consumerist) relations.

Welcome to the Next Generation: Get to know Daniel Elkayam.

What is MAYMA?

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

With the help of Dr. Filipe Natalio from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Elkayam developed a genetically modified outer shell for the algae which allows for the exchange of gases needed to sustain photosynthesis. The result is a living material that is autonomous yet confined, both natural and unnatural.

Elkayam sees MAYMA as a speculative venture into how we can make new connections with nonhuman life. His work explores how we can look afresh and reconnect with overlooked resources when they are presented in new forms.

The development of his project, and the deeper scientific exploration it involved, allowed the young desiger to see algae in a completely new light — as an untapped resource with dynamic possibilities. MAYMA brings together scientific exploration, human desire and the needs of algae in thought-provoking ways.

"How may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? "

Making the unfamiliar familiar

MAYMA evokes familiar archetypes such as the aquarium, house pants and traditional weaving techniques. Elkayam introduces algae in familiar ways to find a middle ground from which people can connect with it as both a potential resource, and as a living being for which humans have a responsibility. This feeling of responsibility is something Elkayam sees as crucial for living with nature in the future.

The designer seeks to ask, "how will the relationship between human and nature change if humans have to take care of the materials that purify the air around us? Would it be the same as taking care of a pet?" and "how may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? Would this new duty of 'care' make us consume less?"

Questions like these encourage us to think more deeply about our current use of natural materials. For instance, how deeply can we connect with a non-living wooden table? What duty of care do we have for it, beyond preserving its aesthetic appearance? What will happen if the natural materials that surround us are not inanimate, silent witnesses to our everyday lives, but alive, responsive organisms that require our care?

Rethinking biophilia

When we think about connecting with nature in a biophilic sense, Elkayam challenges us to think through the contradictions that surround our relationship with nature.

We may see MAYMA as another example of human mastery over nature, and think to ourselves, what’s different here? This is where Elkayam’s work challenges us to dissect our notions of what is natural.

Elkayam aims to create a productive tension between living and static, domestic and wild, touched and untouched. Projects like MAYMA can encourage us to let go of the romantic ideal of unspoilt nature, and see how scientific exploration can re-enchant us with natural materials in unexpected ways.

"Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers?"

Algae as co-designers

Elkayam’s project can be seen as tentative investigation into where the boundary lies between nature’s autonomy and humanity's desire for connections with it. It opens up discussion about what kinds of relationships we can form with living organisms when we let go of the idea of nature as pure, static, balanced and harmonic.

If biophilia is about making connections with the natural world, then we must learn to connect with new, not-so-natural nature that surrounds us.

In this case, can connections be made stronger when we can experience natural materials in ways that incorporate the needs and desires of both the human and nonhuman?

Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers, or perhaps, our next natural companions? 

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

MAYMA is one part of Elkayam's two part graduation series SEAmpathy.

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Cube Design Museum in Kerkrade and Cooper Hewitt in New York present the comprehensive exhibition NATURE - in which internationally renowned designers, artists and inventors present their perspective on nature. From biotechnology to datavisualization, from renewable energy to urban farming: NATURE shows the real impact of design and its ability to renew the balance between the born and the man-made.

New narratives

Nature is changing under the pressure of our contemporary human lifestyle. Subjects such as climate change, plastic soup and synthetic biology increasingly intervene with the world of art and design. Creatives reflect on the changing notion of nature and have an interdisciplinary approach to bring humans, technology and nature together.

Seven sections of the exhibition showcase the different ways in which designers and nature can work together: Understand, Simulate, Salvage, Facilitate, Augment, Remediate and Nurture.

Discover

The cover image shows the intriguing work Tranceflora by Sputniko! and Masaya Kushino. Together with scientists and weavers they created a silk textiles by injecting the eggs of the silkworm with the luminescent DNA of jellyfish and corals.

Among the exhibited projects, Dutch designer Shahar Livne contributes to the exhibition with Salvage, which explores the way in which natural materials can be applied in the field of design. Her work Metamorphism offers a fast-forward to our next nature in which we are mining metamorphosed plastics from our landscapes.

Designduo Mischer’Traxler participates with Curiosity Cloud, a project that values diversity and simultaneously emphasizes the fragility of nature with an installation of glass lights. This fits within the theme Understand, that shows projects in which designers accumulate scientific knowledge to come to a better understanding of nature versus humanity.

Alongside these projects, another 60 international designers, artists and scientists such as Teresa van Dongen, Neri Oxman and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg showcase their take on the contemporary challenges and possibilities of nature. Don't miss it!

Visit

NATURE opens May 2019 and will be on show until 19 January 2020 at both Cube Design Museum in Kerkrade (NL) and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York (US).

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A flock of drones that fly like birds, drifting blocks of concrete, a choreography of opening and closing flowers. The work of Studio Drift is challenging the distinction between the wonders of nature and the creations of man. Their work goes beyond replicating nature; it questions the very essence of it.  

Studio Drift combines the efforts of artists Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn. We are invited into their lively and spacious studio in Amsterdam, that is filled with installations in progress. Surrounded by intriguing sketches and experiments, we talk to Lonneke about their drift to connect – to nature, to each other and to oneself.

Combining drifts

Lonneke and Ralph met at the Design Academy in Eindhoven and started Studio Drift in 2007, two years after their graduation. “It wasn’t really intentional, but we naturally developed a joint style. Our work merged together. And after a while, we started to define our work and initiated Studio Drift,” Lonneke explains.

As Lonneke describes it, their work is about the connection between people and their surroundings. “We all recognize the moment of pure happiness when you have a good conversation and all elements of that moment are in tune. In that same manner, you can be aligned with your natural surroundings.”

“When you look at the clouds passing by in the sky, when you are listening to the sound of the waves arriving at the beach or staring into a fire. These repetitive movements calm us down. We use those movements of nature to recreate this feeling of being in tune – with ourselves, with each other and with nature.”

Studio Drift wants to recreate this feeling of being in tune – with ourselves, with each other and with nature.

Lonneke also finds this state of calmness while harvesting dandelions, which she does every year for their continuous work Fragile Future. “How the dandelion thinks, behaves... there is an intelligence to it, it works as a community. In a single plant, I recognize how we as humans behave. That is the most beautiful thing to discover.”

With Fragile Future III, Studio Drift fuses nature and technology into a multidisciplinary light sculpture.

Technology versus nature

In the era of smartphone addiction and information overload, using technology to recreate the calming effect of nature might seem contradictory. Isn’t technology the thing that distances us from nature? Lonneke passionately disagrees. “Technology in itself doesn’t mean anything. Technology is created by people. It is not overstimulating in itself; it is how we handle it.”

Studio Drift uses technology to bring objects or environments to life, which allows the audience to sympathize with those objects. “But,” Lonneke acknowledges, “it does require lots of research and correct programming to capture the right feeling. Sometimes the movement can be quite aggressive. We continue our work until it hits the right spot. It’s a very intuitive process.”

To her, nature and technology are not oppositional at all. “In nature, there is an endless chain of stimuli and organisms that react to each other. Think about the flock of birds and the predator that disrupts its shape. And as humans, we cut a piece out of the chain and isolate it – that’s what we call technology. We control the input and calculate the output. By using technology, you will learn about the complexity of nature. And essentially, this complexity of nature cannot be captured within the frame of technology. Because there will always be new, unexpected stimuli.”

We cut a piece out of the chain of natural stimuli and isolate it – that’s what we call technology.

Blocks and boxes

Ever since humans are domesticated, technological systems facilitate our modern lifestyle. This isolation of technology from nature leads to the disconnection that we experience. “Some systems feel like they are being forced upon us. They do not feel natural, because there is a missing link.”

To Ralph and Lonneke, it is important to question those systems. Why do we live how we live? And can we bend an existing system into something that feels natural? One of those systems that does not feel natural are blocks and boxes, on which the installation Drifter reflects.

Filmshot from Drifters, a 12-minute film in which the concrete block represents the basic element of our built environment

“Blocks are a system designed by people; they do not exist in nature. A single block doesn’t do anything, it is only functional in combination with other blocks to build something. Especially a concrete block feels inhumane, heavy and merciless. It is an obstacle. But when it starts hovering in the air, it suddenly comes to life. You can relate to the object. The movement gives it a different feel.”

Lonneke is fascinated by the way we structure our lives in both physical and mental boxes. “Boxes are safe, because every corner is visible. You see what you get. But at some point, the box becomes a prison that we want to break out off. That is strange and fascinating to me. We have designed this structure, but it also distances us from our real needs.”

Free the drones

In their own work, they aim to let go of pre-set boxes and set their creations free. “Intervening public space is especially interesting because it creates an audience that normally doesn’t visit galleries or museums. We are actively searching for the audience and how to connect to it.”

Setting their work free becomes literal in Franchise Freedom. The autonomous flying swarm of lighted drones has roamed the skies of Miami, Amsterdam and Burning Man. The drones engage with the natural environment and react to unexpected stimuli.

An autonomous flying swarm of hundreds of drones, Franchise Freedom exposes the tension between individual freedom and safety in numbers.

Franchise Freedom is the result of years of study on the characteristics of flocks of birds. “Flocks of birds are very similar to groups of people, when you look at them from a distance. We are not always in control.” And even though we associate birds with freedom and independence, that isn’t always the case. “Sometimes the birds are leading, sometimes they are following. They pick a direction, but also react to external factors such as predators. They make the same kind of choices as we do, day in and day out.”

Flocks of birds are very similar to groups of people. We are not always in control.

From control to evolution

It becomes clear that plants and animals are moving along with the rhythm of nature, while we as humans try to fight and control it, even though we will always be part of nature. “Technological innovation is part of evolution. A lot of technologies are envisioned and prototyped, but only a few of them work well, resonate with our needs and become successful. To me, that is exactly the same as natural evolution.”

From that perspective, we do not have to be scared of technology taking over. “I trust in human leniency, but Ralph and I don’t agree on that,” Lonneke laughs. “To me, technology isn’t frightening. I hope technology will take some of our workload and create more room to connect with each other.”

New technologies offer a lot of possibilities, such as artificial intelligence. “Artificial intelligence is such an abstract concept, similar to the internet. In the past 500 years, knowledge has been categorized and fragmented among different disciplines of science. I believe artificial intelligence will be able to connect those fragments again. We have this need, this tendency to connect. That’s where we need to go.”

And eventually, we will end up with nature again. “But from a whole different perspective. Evolution is our goal; becoming better people. Technology is only helping us to get there. So, what exactly is nature, and where do we this want development to go? That is what we need to talk about. And we, at Studio Drift, want to be a part of that conversation.”

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What do a kingfisher, cocklebur pods and a Namibian beetle have in common? Besides being living organisms, they have all served as inspiration for creative human technologies to solve challenging problems.

The kingfisher’s sleek beak spurred the streamlined nose design on high-speed trains in Japan. Cockleburs inspired the hook-and-loop fastener system Velcro. And the Namibian beetle’s back inspired a water-collection plant in the desert.

This is biomimicry. It is an approach to innovation, defined by the Biomimicry Institute as seeking: “sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” There are many solutions in nature — and we are learning about more and more of them.

As a researcher in materials science and engineering, I have worked on a variety of different substances. These include biomaterials (implantable ceramics, dental ceramics and titanium alloys) and a variety of different coatings technologies (thermal barrier coatings in turbine engines, corrosion-resistant coatings and catalyst supports).

Biomimicry has helped my teams design solutions that we otherwise would likely not have explored. Inspiration has come from organisms themselves, how organisms make materials and how organisms work together. For example, based on structures observed on plant leaves, we have grown ceramic coatings at room temperature to make oil and water filters on paper and on copper mesh.

How biomimicry works

Without flying insects, birds and floating seeds would we have been able to create airplanes, gliders, parachutes or helicopters?

Watch a maple seed spin to the ground or a dandelion seed float through the air and I am sure you will start asking more questions.

Human beings are generally curious and observant and we have made many innovations by looking to the natural world for inspiration. We seek to understand and then we “copy” existing solutions. The process of biomimicry is also about being curious and observant. We follow a disciplined process to ask questions and seek answers by looking at what is already around in nature.

We first observe functions — what does the organism do? The function can be simple or complex: A dandelion seed floating through the air, or chemical signalling in the body to grow bone. We observe how an organism achieves such a function.

We then determine the mechanisms by which the functions are accomplished — we get to the chemistry and physics of the mechanisms. The final stage is to abstract the natural form, process or ecosystem into another purpose — to mimic for our own use.

Leaf coatings

It pays to pay attention. In the past, I had a research project to devise new ways to make structured catalysts (coatings that better enable chemical reactions.) The team was processing metal wire mesh — to produce ceramic hair-like structures onto which we were to deposit metallic nanoparticles.

We could fabricate the mesh, but the graduate student came to me one day and said that something “weird” was happening. He couldn’t get the nanoparticle precursor solution (the mixture of chemicals that helps to make the final product) to wet the treated wire mesh. The wire mesh was floating on the water-based liquid.

We did not understand what was going on, and so we looked at the structure in the microscope. We still didn’t understand, and so we looked to nature. I took a trip to our greenhouse on campus armed with a water bottle. The manager showed me a variety of plants that repelled water in fascinating ways, and I squirted water on them to see what happened.

Water drops do not wet the leaf surfaces of the Elegant Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia elegans) at all. Author provided

I looked at a variety of plants in the microscope, and found that sugar cane had a similar structure to the ceramic coating.

I was amazed, and it was the start of a new research direction for me; I wanted to figure out how to make coatings to mimic leaves.

Hydrophobic (water repelling) coatings, based on the structures of the waxes found on leaf surfaces, are used in many applications — from paints (such as Lotusan brand) to power-generation, where efficiency can be gained by controlling droplet formation in condensers and boilers. By paying attention to how nature behaves, and by getting down to the chemical and physical mechanisms, we are able to create bio-inspired solutions from other materials and for different applications.

Growing bone tissue

In high school, my friend told me about a bone defect in his leg — a big hole in his thigh bone. He was running and his thigh bone fractured, and he collapsed. He awoke in the hospital five centimetres shorter. Why? Because 25 years ago, bone defects couldn’t be repaired very easily and the damaged tissue had to be surgically removed. There was nothing bone-like that could be put in the damaged tissue’s place to grow new bone. His perfectly good leg had to be shortened too.

Today, because of biomimicry, we can repair and regenerate bone tissue — breaking your leg doesn’t necessarily mean you also become shorter! How can we do now what we couldn’t before? We have learned how the body grows bone tissue, and we have been able to induce bone growth by mimicking nature’s processes.

We can now make glass in a lab, implant it, and new bone will grow in its place. Three months later, there is no trace of the glass. It sounds a lot like the “Skele-Gro” potion from the Harry Potter series but without the vile taste! Our innovations were inspired by ourselves – after all, we too are part of nature.

Bioactive glass, a calcium phosphate based silica glass that stimulates material resorption and bone growth, is often used in dental applications for bone grafts. The material is placed in a bone defect and over time, under the stresses and the biological environment, the glass corrodes and signals bone cells (osteoblasts) to attach and proliferate at the surface and form new bone. The implanted glass is completely dissolved and replaced with new bone.

Biomimicry and the future

And what of the future? We are seeing and learning so much more about what happens in the natural world through time and sophisticated research studies that it is difficult to predict what we might learn in the future. However, as we learn more, we discover that we have made gross oversimplifications for many natural phenomena — so we need to remain curious and observant of the natural world and get down to the details, without losing sight of the entire system.

And, since people are pursuing brain machine interfaces, perhaps we may also consider pursing some other fantasies. Tsaheylu of the Na’vi people in the movie Avatar is “the bond” between different animals — a way to feel as one with the ability to act as one. Imagine if instead of mimicking nature we could become one with it instead. I wonder what other secrets we might learn from the kingfisher, cocklebur pods and the Namibian beetle.

Cover image: A kingfisher’s beak inspired the design of high-speed trains in Japan, through the process of ‘biomimicry,’ or human imitation of nature (via Reformed Perspective).

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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As a young bio designer at the start of your career, you'll have to overtake all kinds of obstacles. From the collection of living materials to working in a laboratory and collaborating with scientists; bio design is a newly emerging field in which you have to pave your own paths.

Meet biodesigner Emma van der Leest. Characterized by a DIY mentality, her multidisciplinary practice combines craft, scientific research and new bio-based production techniques.

Besides her own design practice, Emma founded an open-access wet lab and teaches at the Willem de Kooning Academy and the Design Academy Eindhoven. She welcomed us at the BlueCity Lab to talk about the emerging craft of biodesign, the importance of collaboration and experimental education.

The unpaved path towards bio design

Emma was schooled as a product designer at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. During her studies, Bio fabrication sparked her interest when she encountered  the work of bio designer Suzanne Lee. Encouraged by a video explanation of Lee’s work, she bought Kombucha tea at a local shop and started experimenting at home. Back in her student dorm - to annoyance of her roommates that complained about the smell - she successfully grew cellulose out of it. This hands-on approach is what would characterize Emma’s work.

Biocouture clutch designed by Emma during her internship at the Biocouture Studio

“By the time I had to choose an internship, there was only one place I wanted to go to, this was Suzanne Lee’s Biocouture studio in London. I landed an internship at her studio and this  was kind of life changing for me: Here I learned to grow something in a ‘proper’ way”.

After Emma’s internship, she continued to work on her own bio-based design projects, but found difficulties in getting access to a laboratory.

Form follows organism

For her graduation project Form follows Organism in 2015, Emma developed a design methodology using a slime mold. “It was difficult to explain to people that I wasn't really designing a chair or a lamp, but that I was using an organism as a design tool.  My entire school career, I firmly believed in the added value of developing materials and getting the most out of it by researching its properties, rather than just designing the next chair. We have to reinvent materials instead of reinventing products.”

We have to reinvent materials instead of products.

She also researched the changing role of the designer when working with living materials. “It is a completely different field, you have to develop a certain language to communicate with scientists.” She met with scientists who were doing great work, but didn’t apply their findings after publication. “And that triggered me - how many treasures are just laying in a lab that we can take out? As designers and artists, we hold the ability to visualize this research into tangible products.”

An open laboratory set up as part of the Microbial Vending Machine exhibited at TENT Rotterdam

But, if form actually follows organism, how much influence does the designer hold? Emma explains that the laboratory is especially an area of control, because you decide upon the environment, the temperature and the nutrition of the material. She describes it as  “a whole new craft that you need to develop.”

Both designers and scientists are skilled in working with specific materials and tools. Sharing this expertise is necessary to master the craft of bio design.

Currently, Emma is collaborating with a scientist from Leiden University to develop a coating for bacterial leather, as the bacterial leather itself is not water-repellent and not very flexible. “I'm quite excited to develop this. We started out with small experiments and now we are going to see how far we can take it. After all, I'm still a product designer and not a biologist.”

The blue economy

Her vision on bio design and the lack of available laboratories for young bio designers eventually led her to set up a bio lab at BlueCity in 2016. Located in an abandoned tropical swimming pool, BlueCity is the entrepreneurial hub for the ‘blue economy’ in Rotterdam — and the perfect environment for innovation.

Blue City 010 is located in a former swimming pool in Rotterdam

The blue economy, a concept by author Gunter Pauli, is built upon businesses that involve waste as a new source, as the output of one entrepreneur serves as the input for another. Similar to nature’s cycles, the blue economy is based on networks.

“We try to work as an ecosystem, and really have nature sitting next to us at the table to learn how we can integrate her in different types of processes. If we want to shift towards a more sustainable blue and bio-fabricated future, we need to collaborate with nature — instead of working against her,” Emma says.

We need to collaborate with nature — instead of working against her.

The Lab is the ultimate place to practice what they preach. “We need to stop talking about it and just do it. The Lab is really a place and the platform where people come to acquire experience and meet each other.” The old locker rooms of the swimming pool have been transformed into a workplace for designers, scientists, researchers and students that want to experiment with biology. It combines a wet lab and a dry lab, which allows users to combine different crafts to develop a final product.

Though the Lab is still a work-in-progress, Emma aims to provide all that she was missing during her own exploration of bio design: an open and accessible place to experiment, learn and collaborate. “I started Blue City Lab to lower the threshold for anyone who wants to practice biotechnology in a DIY way of doing it.”

Microbial Vending Machine

This ideology of open access also becomes visible in Emma’s latest project: the Microbial Vending Machine. For this project she took a FEBO vending machine – a characteristic Dutch vending machine which sells deep-fried snacks ‘from the wall’– and turned it into a shopping window for living materials and speculative bio products.

The Microbial Vending Machine on show at TENT Rotterdam

“This is to show people that in less than 10 years, taking an organism out of the wall will be as easy as it is to get a soda from a vending machine today.” And the accessibility of biomaterials such as algae, fungi and bacteria is essential for bio design and biotechnology to thrive. “These collectable organisms may be far more valuable in the near future than any candy bar or soda. Ultimately, the organisms enable us to approach design, science and construction in an entirely new fashion.”

Organisms enable us to approach design, science and construction in an entirely new fashion.

Emma points out that these fast developments and the endless range of possibilities may scare people, and sometimes it scares even herself. “We can now grow meat and textiles in the laboratory, and we are already able to grow bricks in order to build houses. So, what can't we grow?”

Yet, fear of biotechnology mostly comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding. “People may have heard about it, but don't exactly know what it is.” Therefore bringing the subject of biotechnology closer to the people may change the attitude towards it.  

On the future of (bio) design education

Wrapping up our conversation, we asked Emma how she envisions an ideal future for experimental and bio design, and how we can overcome the struggles that she ran into in exploring the uncharted territories of bio-based design. “We should at least have good education in this field,” she replies. “I think every designer should get introductory classes in sustainable design methods. It's really about how we can work efficiently with materials, instead of deriving them from Earth. Looking around us and see what we already have: from scarcity to abundance. And that’s a vision that generally lacks.”

Emma with the pop-up exhibit of the Blue City Lab

Emma states that most educational programs – on both art schools and universities – are still rather traditional. In her view, academic institutions could become more experimental. “I think this will hold the potential to stimulate innovation and makes collaborating easier. Try looking beyond yourself, and perhaps you’ll discover something that you’ve never thought of, which could literally change your life.”

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Go forward to nature at the La Fabrique du Vivant (the Factory of Life), the newly opened exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Exhibiting the recent works of fifty international creators, along with research from scientific laboratories, La Fabrique du Vivant brings together artists, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs in the course of a collective exhibition to examine the tilting concept of nature, as linked to technological production.

As biotechnologies are now a medium (more and more) used by artists, designers and architects, we must question the notion of the living. Biodesigner Maurizio Montalti acknowledges this in our recent chat, as he considers the design practice as a collaboration between himself, the studio and the other living systems such as microbes and fungi. What's more, he refers to them as his “partners.”

Between biology and genetics, the exhibition shows how design can take a cross-disciplinary approach. Design now makes use of 'bio-engineering' around living matter. Bio-materials, produced from biological organisms (from fungus mycelium to bacteria, etc.) have generated innovative objects, such as the Electric Life, a sustainable light source using bacteria to create electricity, by Next Nature fellow Teresa van Dongen.

In the (electric) spotlight: Teresa van Dongen

Teresa van Dongen is a biodesigner exploring natural forms of artificial light and energy. In Paris she showcases the latest installment of Electric Life. Built upon previous research, Electric Life is a light installation powered by micro-organisms that have electrons as a waste product. These micro-organisms originate from the muddy soil of rivers and lakes, and Teresa utilizes them for domestic use.

Electric Life (2019) by Teresa van Dongen

The light does not completely power itself; it needs to be taken care of by its owner. A sip of water and some additional nutrients once a week will be enough to keep the micro-organisms alive and alight. The relationship between human and micro-organism becomes mutually beneficial.

Electric Life (2019) by Teresa van Dongen

Experience Electric Life among other expressions of bio art and innovatice reserach by scientists such as Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Maurizio Montalti and Daan Roosegaarde at Centre Pompidou. La Fabrique du Vivant is organised as part of the third edition of Mutations/Creations in association with IRCAM and will be on show at Centre Pompidou until the 15th of April 2019.

Cover image: Mycelium Chair, Klarenbeek & Dros

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Agriculture may be one of the oldest of our technologies. Over time it has developed, changed, revolutionized, industrialized - or simply put, it has evolved. Today’s farms are nothing like those of our grandparents. All the more reason to expect radical changes within our own lifetime.

Today the farming industry is facing many challenges: the climate is changing and population demands are increasing. But these global challenges also create opportunities and are the incentives for innovation.

Pioneering research is being done at the Wageningen University of Research (WUR). We recently caught up on upcoming technologies within the wonderous field of agriculture and asked, how may we envision the farm of the future?

And guess what, according to the researchers, they have quite some surprises in stock:

'LED it be 50%'

More food and less waste in space and matter. It's the main goal for Leo Marcelis, who’s exploring the potentials of vertical farming by testing several light-care methods for efficient plant-growth.

He introduces us to a rather simple-sounding trick, enabled by new technologies. That is, what if we were building farms vertically, instead of horizontally? Such agricultural flats would reduce the spatial footprint of the farm intensively.

Vertical farming means bringing the farm to the city. Urbanizing our food sources has some positive sides: it would significantly lower transportation costs, as well as associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Vertical farming with LED light

In such a ' flat', crops can grow more efficiently: controlling crop conditions is a whole lot easier in greenhouses rather than in the open field. It simulteneously lowers (or eliminates) the use of pesticides, and it optimizes resources, like water and nutrients.

But most intriguing, Marcelis explains how white light that's coming from the sun contains all colors of the visible light spectrum in it. Now plants don’t need all those colors of light to grow, they actually perform greatly, or even better, under just a few specific colors of light. Attuning our technology to that aspect of plant biology may turn the greenhouse of the future rather...pink.

However, before we can urbanize the farm and create a more sustainable agricultural system, the main challenge is to cut down energy needs. And this is where his latest research, LED it be 50%, comes in. Marcelis thinks that 30 percent of electricity usage can be saved by cleverly placing LEDs, using the possibilities of different colors of light, giving the right intensity at the right time, and using varieties that are suitable for energy-efficient lighting.

On board with this vision? Make sure not to miss the Future Food Formula by NNN fellow Chloé Rutzerveld! Partial speculation, partial science, Rutzerveld is looking for innovative methods to turn this research into a reality. 

The age of the agribots

I remember visiting a farm as a child and envisioned my 14-year-old self during my first summer job. I saw myself lying on the back of a weeding-tractor, faced to the ground, ready to pluck all weeds from in between the crops. I must say, it wasn’t a very attractive sight.

But as I spoke with Janneke de Kramer, that summer job vanished before my eyes. She shows me a video of a tractor hovering over crops, fully equipped with sensors able to distinguish the crops from the weed, process this information, and act on it: flashing blades go through the soil as the tractor drives by.

Agro Food Robotics showcases how farmers can work together with advanced tech. More: WUR (in Dutch)

Agricultural robots are changing the look, feel and pace of traditional farming practices. Crop harvesting is poised to significantly impact the agricultural sector over the next decade.

Kramer explains how today, less people are willing to work in agriculture, but worldwide there are more mouths to feed. May I remind you the UN estimates the world population will rise from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion in 2050. The world will need a lot more food, and farmers will face serious pressure to keep up with demand. It's therefore essential to create more attractive farmer jobs - with the aid of technology.

In the future of farming, will we be taking care of our plants as much as our technology? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Precision agriculture 2.0 - with drones

Consider this: your baby will eat as much as they need, and grow in the way that's right for them if you maintain a division of responsibility in feeding. Now, similar to your baby, this applies to crops. Caring for crops with such precision, is what inspires Corne Kempenaar to develop his research Precision agriculture 2.0

With a select group of farmers, he’s experimenting with this new technology-driven approach. What does it look like? Well, much like our Hubot farm scenario 2.0.

Drones in agriculture provide precise data that helps farmers determine the needed care per plot of land.

Scanning crops with the aid of a drone, the farmer collects all kinds of data that will assist them in knowing which plots need more water, pesticides, and other care. Welcome to the field of precision agriculture.

Where may this be headed? Perhaps one day this precision achieves its ultimate resolution: specialized diets, food, and care -  different for each single plant.

Kempenaars' vision of flying sensors could help us better detect the biological needs of our plants. An eloquent example of how to balance nature and technology.

Thoughts? Or do you have a vision for the future of farming? Comment is free ?

[post_title] => Three scenarios for the future of farming [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => future-urban-farm [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-10 13:21:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-10 12:21:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=91360 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81899 [post_author] => 1510 [post_date] => 2018-06-19 07:09:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-19 06:09:10 [post_content] => Growing meat artificially, instead of within an animal, may soon be an available reality. Meet one of the pioneering developers of this product of the future: Aleph Farms. With their innovative methods, they are better able to mimic the structure and texture of our well-known beef. But they want to go beyond just mimicking 'real' meat. We spoke with Didier Toubia, founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, who sparked our imagination with his idea of the next farming industry. Are farms the clean meat laboratoria of the future?In a conversation with our friends at the Good Food Institute, Matt Ball told us about the work of Aleph Farms. He states: “Aleph Farms has an absolutely world-class scientific team! If they are successful with growing four distinct cell types in three dimensions, they will be able to replicate more complex cuts of meat than are currently being attempted by other clean meat startups.”We got in touch with Didier Toubia, CEO and founder of Aleph Farms, and found ourselves inspired by their ideas, technology and innovation.

Towards taking the cow out of the steak

The lacking animal welfare, the high environmental impact, and the potential health issues related to our traditional meat industry, are motivating a quest for a better alternative to our dearly-loved meat. Didier Toubia explains “With Aleph Farms, we're part of what is called the ‘cellular agricultural revolution’, a transition towards agriculture where we’re directly growing tissues off of cells instead of growing the whole animal.”Didier compares this growth of meat to hydroponic agriculture, where crops are grown without soil, but attached to nutrient flows. “The same as there are ways to grow vegetables disconnected from the soil, we are growing a steak disconnected from the cow.”However, before this revolution can unravel, the clean meat industry is facing multiple challenges.“Developing cost-effective growth media is the biggest challenge for clean meat's future at the moment.” Matt ball explains. Didier Toubia adds: “Scaling up the production efficiency, and lowering the costs of the current methods, are well-known challenges that we, as well as other companies, are working hard for to overcome.”But Didier sees another challenge. "It’s also important that at the end of the day, the clean meat product will be attractive and appealing to the consumer.” Therefore, the currently lab-grown meat must develop further. “It has to be a complex piece of meat, with a texture and structure which is closer to real meat.”
“The same as there are ways to grow vegetables disconnected from the soil, we are growing a steak disconnected from the cow.”
Aleph farms may be able to further this resemblance of meat. “We bring two innovations to the clean meat industry. Firstly, we developed a method with Technion, the University in Haifa, where they use a platform for regenerative medicine that restores and repairs tissues for patients. With this method we can grow a 3 dimensional cut of meat.”“Moreover, we are the first to generate meat with 4 types of cells. Besides the muscles cells and fat, we also have connective tissue and blood vessels in our meat.”Besides these advancements in the clean meat development, they seem eager to take on another challenge. “Beef is probably the least sustainable type of meat, and it is triggering most problems in the meat industry these days. However, there is only two countries in the world working on lab-grown beef, as it is a much more complex type of meat to grow in a lab. We believe our technology is capable of doing the job, so we choose to start our clean meat development with beef.”

Clean meat is to be differentiated from traditional meat

Didier is keen to emphasize: “To start off, the end-product is meat, just meat. Lettuce is a lettuce no matter how you grow it. The same counts for lab-grown meat, which is in the end meat. We just grow it in a more advanced manner.”But, the end goal is not necessarily to make a piece of meat that one cannot distinguish from real meat. “I think it is necessary to go beyond mimicking real meat.”“In the beginning clean meat will still be more expensive than cow-meat. Moreover, if people know the meat is not produced exactly like cow-meat, a psychological bias will likely give them the sensation that the meat does not taste the same.”
"Clean meat should be unique and new experience, that differentiates the product from traditional meat and grants some real added value."
These arguments led Didier to the following conclusion. “I think it is better if we don’t directly compete with traditional meat, but that it is ‘clean meat’ as a statement. Clean meat should be unique and new experience, that differentiates the product from traditional meat and grants some real added value. Your In Vitro Meat Cookbook with that respect is, well, a pioneering vision for clean meat, which I liked very much.”The process of developing clean meat also allows for this differentiation. “Clean meat offers lots of possibilities when compared to traditional ways of growing meat.” For instance, “We have some freedom in the ratio between fat and muscle tissue, as such we can develop products with a different nutritional profile.” That reminds us a little of our home incubator, no?Alongside the unique experience of clean meat, Didier trusts that clean meat will already be attractive to people for its "cleaner" nature. “We like to see clean meat as something mainstream, meaning it addresses the need of many consumers who are more and more aware of the downsides of real meat." Didier explains. "The process of growing the meat is more efficient, sustainable and ethical. Furthermore, because we grow the meat in controlled conditions, there is no need for animal antibiotics. And it is free of contamination, as this is a prevailing risk at slaughterhouses, which obviously won’t apply to clean meat.”Opening the market for clean meat, starts simply with spreading that exact message. "If you want to further the development of clean meat, spread the word that clean meat is better for the planet, better for us as humans, and better for the animals."

The next laboratory is actually a farm

The original term ‘in vitro meat’ is not used by Didier. And, I have to admit, when I think of clean meat, I still see a petri dish with a perfectly pink piece of meat in it. This association with the lab may repel people from the concept. However, the future of clean meat is not envisioned to take place in a laboratorium.Didier explains: “Even your most standard cookie was once made in the lab, like any new food product starts in the lab for research and development.” It is not surprising that, now that clean meat is slowly progressing from this R&D stage, the industry is both moving and rebranding its product. Didier chooses specifically to envision an integration of the old and the new. The future of in vitro meat, may just find its way into our well-known farms.“We envision that the production of clean meat will be done in bio farms. I believe that those biofarms can be integrated with the traditional farms, which nowadays are already very high-tech. Farmers are integrating new technologies and approaches all the time. I see clean meat simply as another improved technique for agriculture, giving farmers additional revenues. I think they are the best partners for us to produce clean meat globally and to increase production capacities quickly. I don't feel safe as a biotech company, but I’m sure as a farming business.”
I don't feel safe as a biotech company, but I’m more sure as a farming business.
We at Next Nature are more than curious to see how Aleph Farms will continue to develop their innovative methods, their differentiated meat experience and their ideas for the next farming industry. Thank you for sharing, Didier Toubia! [post_title] => Aleph Farms wants to bring clean meat from the lab to the next farming industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => meet-aleph-farms-clean-meat [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-10 16:34:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-10 15:34:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81899 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 81354 [post_author] => 1510 [post_date] => 2018-04-18 11:35:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-18 10:35:27 [post_content] => What if plastics one day become a rare commodity that we desire and mine from the depths of the earth’s crust? By that time, plastic would be a rather different material. Shahar Livne offers a fast-forward to this next nature, by artificially geomimicing metamorphisms. She shares with us her speculative material: the “lithoplast”.We sat down with Shahar Livne, an Israeli-born designer who graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven. This week, she is showcasing her work at the Milan Design week. We spoke about her research into metamorphism as a design tool, and how this led her to envision the future of plastics. 

Material narratives through metamorphism

“I’m a material designer. I’m interested in the philosophical and cultural aspects of materials. I aim to use them to tell a story.” One of the many materials that may tell a story, are rocks. “Over time, rocks go through a lot of transformations inside the Earth.” One of these transformations, is metamorphism. “This is a natural process, resulting in natural rocks, through which I am uniquely able to tell a story.”The Earth’s history is told by the rock-layering of the earth’s crust. Humanity is uniquely present in that story, by leaving a global mark on our technosphere. The most prominent material-marker of humanity, are plastics.[caption id="attachment_81355" align="alignnone" width="640"] A lithoplast rock made by Shahar Livne[/caption]

Exploring plastics

“Plastic is the first man-made material that we have changed on a molecular level. Plastics are made from the natural material of oil, and were developed to imitate and enhance nature." “I drew upon an essay by Koert van Mensvoort, and was particularly inspired by the concept of Hypernature. I think plastic is a hypernatural material. With plastics, we’re able to model and control nature.”Plastics are made to be durable, and may survive much longer than we had imagined. There is no place in the world that is free from plastics anymore.” Despite our efforts of recycling, and cleaning up the oceans, plastics will most likely be a future fossil. Shahar dares to accept this scenario and explores what this future may look like.
"Plastic is a hypernatural material"
Nature is already taking plastic into itself. At some point, plastic hybridized with natural materials.” The first example of this hybrid material, are ‘plastic conglomerates’. These are nature-made-rocks that harbor pieces of plastic within them. These have gone through the earliest stages of the rock-cycle, similar to the process by which dead shellfish pressurize into limestone, making up the iconic white cliffs of England. However, it's possible that materials like rock or plastic stay within the earth’s crust for longer. This is when the natural process of metamorphism takes place. Under high pressures and temperatures, limestone may turn into marble, or charcoal turns into diamonds.“I wondered, could plastics last through the full rock-cycle? So, I started talking to geologists. They agreed that our plastics will most probably one day be metamorphosed.”“That vision of the future, is what grasped me. That’s how I got to my speculative material version of the future. A newly created material: the lithoplast.”
"Nature is already taking plastic into itself. At some point, plastic hybridized with natural materials"
[caption id="attachment_81362" align="alignnone" width="640"] Shahar shares: “I had never expected that people would be so eager to touch the lithoplasts. The moment they pick it up their faces are almost always fully surprised. People expect a heavy material like a stone, but plastic is a lot lighter.”[/caption]

Presenting the future of plastics

“To make the lithoplast, I’m geomimicing something that doesn’t happen in nature just yet.”“In natural settings, I expect that all kinds of plastics will metamorphose together with other minerals. To mimic this, I mix the plastics with minestone and marble dust. This distinguishes my method from 3D printing, where you can only use certain types of plastics and have to divide them yourself.”“To mimic metamorphism, I have access to a huge press. This machine can expose my mix to such high pressures and temperatures that the material completely changes. The material stretches, and becomes malleable.”Malleability is a celebrated characteristic of plastics; you can make it into any form you like. “However, the timespan for molding plastics in traditional methods, industrial plastics and 3D printers, only lasts a few seconds. This time-frame makes plastic inherently a machine-made material.”
"In the future, we may rediscover this beautiful material of our wasted plastics, and start mining them"
“What I discovered, is that through my method of metamorphism, the lithoplast stays malleable for much longer. We think this happens due to the mixture I use.  This unique aspect allows me to mold the material by hand - as if it is clay. This interaction with the material, is much more like craftmanship.” Her next-material may envision a goldsmith of the future: the plastic smith!Her work envisions a more positive view on our waste culture. “What I think will happen, is that we will reach a point where we won’t be able to make plastics anymore. At that point, we may rediscover this beautiful material of our wasted plastics, and start mining them.”“When I tell people that I’m not recycling plastics, but envisioning a far future with fossilized plastics in it, some people may get angry. I think that makes sense: many of us put a lot of effort into recycling our plastics, we simply don’t want to see our plastic waste become a part of nature. I want people to start thinking differently about plastics, on a larger timescale.”[caption id="attachment_81363" align="alignnone" width="640"] The malleability of the lithoplasts, allows Shahar to hand-make objects, like a craftsman.[/caption]

Milan design week

Shahar is excited to present her work during Milan design week. She’ll be doing two exhibitions as part of her metamorphism research. “Firstly, I’m invited by the organization of Ventura Future to exhibit in their collection on future materials and technologies. Here, I will be treating the lithoplasts like clay, and make vases with them, that either are ‘rough’ or really ‘fine’. So, the vases change in meaning from looking really natural to looking really synthetic.”“I’m also exhibiting with Dutch Invirtuals, a design collective. One of their exhibits is exploring the future of mining, and is part of the exhibition “Mutant Matter”. Here I will present the lithoplast like altars, to illustrate the idea that we could also be worshipping plastics instead of wasting them.”

The future of the lithoplast

In the future, Shahar hopes to publish her research on metamorphism in book form. Her graduation research will be a part of this. “This research will explore our perceptions on the natural-born and man-made, our cultural uses of plastics, and I’ll research the idea of craftsmanship.” Her favorite part of her designs, lies in the dialogue it invites. “I'm now developing a methodology on material research and design, whilst doing my residency at the ‘materials experience lab’ at TU Delft. I realized that what I like most about my materials such as the lithoplasts, is how I can ask people lots of questions with it.”“One of my favorite questions I like to ask people about my work is: 'If we are natural, and we are making plastic, then is plastic not a natural material?' Think about it.Thank you Shahar Livne, for sharing your viewpoints with us! We are looking forward to your exhibit in Milan, and the many more next-materials you may make. [post_title] => Interview: Designer Shahar Livne is geomimicing the future of plastics [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-shahar-livne [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-20 10:53:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-20 09:53:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=81354 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 80810 [post_author] => 1510 [post_date] => 2018-03-09 13:06:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-09 12:06:20 [post_content] => There was a time when flipping the switch, and seeing a glass bulb light up, was magical to anyone in the world. Today, the presence of a light switch in a room, is something intuitive, and perhaps even taken for granted. We spoke with Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen, who uses living organisms to power her lights. Having such a ‘living lamp’, means you’ll be taking care of small ecosystems of bacteria. In exchange, they will give you light.How exactly Teresa’s living lamp needs caring, has changed over time. Her first light installation was needy like a baby. Her latest design became more like a pet, and the next generation, should be really easy to keep; like a plant. Teresa tells us her story; of her living lamps, the power of design, and of the future of light.

Swinging waves of light

Graduating from the Design Academy in 2015, Teresa caught bioluminescence from the skin of octopi and injected this into her first light installment Ambio. An aesthetic, yet interactive design, having a triangular frame balance two weights; one of which attached to a glass reservoir keeping bioluminescent bacteria. The other invites the spectator to interact with the work; once you gently swing this lamp, organisms will flow back and forth through the reservoir for 10 minutes. Whilst moving, these organisms perform their magic: emitting a blue glow of light, reminding you of an ocean wave.[caption id="attachment_80821" align="alignnone" width="640"] Ambio, glowing blue light emitted by bioluminescence[/caption][caption id="attachment_80822" align="alignnone" width="640"] In continuing the Ambio project, Teresa created One Luminous Dot. In this installation, Ambio lamps were hanging all across the ceiling, endlessly reflected in a big space with mirrors, inciting the feeling of being deep in the ocean, looking up at the movements of the waves, or perhaps the surreality of space.[/caption]Designing a lamp that is 'alive' quickly stuck to Teresa: “As soon as I discovered that people liked the idea of a lamp that was ‘alive’ through bioluminescent bacteria, I started imagining a whole new generation, which would be much brighter, having people taking care of it at home.”This aspect of care, needing to nurture the 'living' in the lamp, is an interaction that she explicitly includes in most of her designs. Teresa believes that, taking care of the things around us, we may end up finding them more valuable. “Some things we take for granted. If we push that button the light goes on. But it's already so magical that we have electricity flowing through the building,” the designer said. By taking care of something that's alive, in turn receiving light, we may both appreciate the power of nature as an energy source, and realize that we should not take technology (like light) for granted.However, taking care of this lamp was kind of like taking care of a baby: “I realized that this project wasn’t really meant for a consumer, it had too many boundaries: the organisms were too complex.” While exhibiting her designs, maintaining such organisms was already a full undertaking: “I often gained help from two biotech students from the Delft University of Technology, and sometimes we had to build a small laboratory in my atelier. While exhibiting abroad we brought all the lab stuff into an AirBnB, recreating a little lab there."[caption id="attachment_80824" align="alignnone" width="640"] Teresas mobile 'living lab' to nurture the bioluminescence in the run towards exhibitions.[/caption]

Sparks of life that bring you light

We fast-forward through Teresa’s portfolio, to arrive at her latest project, Spark of Life, bringing the living lamp a step closer towards a consumer-friendly version. A hanging lamp, with 4 glass compartments lacking an electricity plug. And don’t be fooled by the hint to a light bulb: this lamp is roughly the size of a soccer ball.Moving beyond bioluminescence, this time Teresa chose another type of organism. “Spark of Life is powered by living organisms, but in this case the organisms are not directly emitting light themselves; they’re excreting electrons. The lamp channels these electrons in the connected electrical circuits to LEDs, providing you with an artificial light, made by living organisms. It's much less work to maintain such organisms as they're much stronger; this design needs to be fed with a teaspoon of acetate every two weeks, and some new water every month."[caption id="attachment_80865" align="alignnone" width="640"] Spark of Life is home to ecosystems of electro active bacteria.[/caption]For the development of this lamp, Teresa collaborated with the University of Gent's laboratory, where scientists work with these organisms and knew the bacteria emits electrons, which in turn, could be harvested as an energy source. “However, they were surprised to learn that, using only one batch of bacteria, I managed to keep 4 LEDs alight for 24/7, for the duration of an entire year! They’d expected this to work, but perhaps for a few weeks.” Teresa explains. “When I first presented Spark of Life, the scientists brought their families to see the work. Their work is often too dense and scientific, which makes it is hard for them to talk about it at the dinner table with their kids. My design could be considered a small visualization of the power of these organisms.”With Spark of Life, Teresa won the Keep an Eye grant, a price to stimulate recent alumni of the Design Academy Eindhoven. The price ensures Teresa to continue to develop the project towards a more consumer friendly product.

Bringing the next generation of natural light to your home

Teresa gives us a first peek at some models of the continuation of the Spark of Life. She’s now exploring how she may be using glass and reflecting materials to amplify the light of the LED’s. At current, the organisms themselves are not strong enough (yet) to light a whole room. What's more, up until now, the lamp does not have an “off”-switch.“The organisms will be housed inside a separate reservoir, perhaps like an aquarium, in which the microbial fuel cell is generating energy from the electrons of the bacteria, making it easier to maintain as well. But, taking care of the lamp should be something like taking care of your plants. The idea is that the owners find a low-maintenance routine, like the ease with which you’d water your plants."This project may finally be able to move from the exhibition room, to the living room. Here, she hopes that her designs incite conversation, or as Teresa put it: "becoming that one object in the home sparking interest."[caption id="attachment_80867" align="alignnone" width="640"] Lumist: Visualizing lost energy[/caption][caption id="attachment_80868" align="alignnone" width="640"] "Energy is a precious commodity, but often we don’t notice when it’s wasted. I looked for a way to use the heat lost by halogen lamps and created Lumist – a lamp and humidifier in one. The heat from the bulb keeps the surrounding water just under boiling point, and therefore causes the water to evaporate. More water is constantly provided by the adjacent reservoir. By capturing the contradictory traits of water and light in glass, I visualize this otherwise lost energy."[/caption]

The power of design

Conversations, like the ones envisioned in her next design generation, are to inspire people to think about the hidden wonders of nature. According to Teresa, “there are many secrets in nature that remain almost unknown, and developments in the field of science often stay within the laboratory.”“I like to take 'the scientific' that seems complicated from the outside, and bring this closer to the people.”Spark of Life is an eloquent example of Teresa is opening these doors. “Electro active bacteria are not a new thing; they have been researched for over 20 years.” Scientific research in this field often has large goals, think cleaning up waste water, harvesting energy, or cleaning oil stains in the ocean. However, “these are complex goals that take time before they are implemented and can reach the people.” Teresa sees this as the gap where her designs come in. “My end result does not have to correlate with the end result of scientists.”
There are many secrets in nature that remain almost unknown
Design, to her, serves a particularly powerful tool to express the unknown. Comparing it to written words, the language of science, Teresa explains: “People oftentimes think that we can express everything by just speaking, but considering we have evolved with many more senses than just speaking and hearing, I think some things are not necessarily better - but richer - if they’re translated into a tangible form. You can reach that through design.”

A future of living light?

It appears to be a trend, perhaps even the next energy source: drawing energy from living things, that is. We see it in the work of ECO coin award winner of 2018's Sandra Rey from Glowee, who wants to use bioluminescence to light our streets, and in the practice of Ermi van Oers, who draws energy from plants to generate light. Although Teresa identifies with this trend, she takes a different approach: “I want to design an intimate experience with the person owning the lamp, and create something tactile and inspiring, nearly like an art piece”
I want to design an intimate experience with the person owning the lamp
Yet, whether or not bioluminescence will play a role in scaling up sustainable light sources in the future, is not certain to Teresa. “From my designs I have learnt that these organisms, even when modified, need lots of care and energy; I’m not sure if this can be managed on such large scales”. However, she doesn’t see this enough to criticize: “Sandra Rey wants to celebrate the power of nature, and present the beauty of bioluminescence and challenge its limits all the way; I’m with her!”

Natural forms of artificial light

To conclude, Teresa highlights how innovations in artificial light are starting to mimic the patterns of natural light. “We are realizing how the colors of light have an effect on our hormones. There's a natural cycle in your day; in the evening the light of the sun turns red, which works through to our hormones and gets us sleepy. In the morning the light is blue, waking us up. TL and LED lights to that end, can be blue or yellow, and influence our health as we are often exposed to such lights via our screens and in our work environments." Furthermore, our lighting systems in the future may resemble full-spectrum light. Back to the incandescent light?In Teresa’s view, the future of light involves two things. Living lamps can fuse nature with artificial light, making our technological environment a bit more humane. And at the same time, artificial light is seeking to become more like natural light. “To have these two developments go hand in hand, is quite beautiful," Teresa says. "And it's going so fast! I believe we will get there, soon.”_________________________Looking for more interviews? Join NNN and we will keep you in the know on everything next nature, all around the world! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => In conversation with Teresa van Dongen, biodesigner exploring natural forms of artificial light [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-teresa-van-dongen [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-25 10:03:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-25 09:03:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=80810 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121984 [post_author] => 2194 [post_date] => 2019-10-29 14:10:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-29 13:10:07 [post_content] =>

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Meet Daniel Elkayam, a fresh-faced Industrial Design graduate, based in Jerusalem, Israel. For his graduation project MAYMA, Elkayam worked with algae in ways that implore us to "imagine a world in which we harness nature in our favor without harming it," as the designer puts it.

Delving into the notion of biophilia — the belief that humans have an inherent tendency to make connections and form relationships with the natural world — Elkayam wonders about how humans relate to the natural world, and how the use of living materials may affect these (often consumerist) relations.

Welcome to the Next Generation: Get to know Daniel Elkayam.

What is MAYMA?

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

With the help of Dr. Filipe Natalio from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Elkayam developed a genetically modified outer shell for the algae which allows for the exchange of gases needed to sustain photosynthesis. The result is a living material that is autonomous yet confined, both natural and unnatural.

Elkayam sees MAYMA as a speculative venture into how we can make new connections with nonhuman life. His work explores how we can look afresh and reconnect with overlooked resources when they are presented in new forms.

The development of his project, and the deeper scientific exploration it involved, allowed the young desiger to see algae in a completely new light — as an untapped resource with dynamic possibilities. MAYMA brings together scientific exploration, human desire and the needs of algae in thought-provoking ways.

"How may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? "

Making the unfamiliar familiar

MAYMA evokes familiar archetypes such as the aquarium, house pants and traditional weaving techniques. Elkayam introduces algae in familiar ways to find a middle ground from which people can connect with it as both a potential resource, and as a living being for which humans have a responsibility. This feeling of responsibility is something Elkayam sees as crucial for living with nature in the future.

The designer seeks to ask, "how will the relationship between human and nature change if humans have to take care of the materials that purify the air around us? Would it be the same as taking care of a pet?" and "how may our consumption habits change if the materials we use are alive? Would this new duty of 'care' make us consume less?"

Questions like these encourage us to think more deeply about our current use of natural materials. For instance, how deeply can we connect with a non-living wooden table? What duty of care do we have for it, beyond preserving its aesthetic appearance? What will happen if the natural materials that surround us are not inanimate, silent witnesses to our everyday lives, but alive, responsive organisms that require our care?

Rethinking biophilia

When we think about connecting with nature in a biophilic sense, Elkayam challenges us to think through the contradictions that surround our relationship with nature.

We may see MAYMA as another example of human mastery over nature, and think to ourselves, what’s different here? This is where Elkayam’s work challenges us to dissect our notions of what is natural.

Elkayam aims to create a productive tension between living and static, domestic and wild, touched and untouched. Projects like MAYMA can encourage us to let go of the romantic ideal of unspoilt nature, and see how scientific exploration can re-enchant us with natural materials in unexpected ways.

"Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers?"

Algae as co-designers

Elkayam’s project can be seen as tentative investigation into where the boundary lies between nature’s autonomy and humanity's desire for connections with it. It opens up discussion about what kinds of relationships we can form with living organisms when we let go of the idea of nature as pure, static, balanced and harmonic.

If biophilia is about making connections with the natural world, then we must learn to connect with new, not-so-natural nature that surrounds us.

In this case, can connections be made stronger when we can experience natural materials in ways that incorporate the needs and desires of both the human and nonhuman?

Will organisms such as algae become our next co-designers, or perhaps, our next natural companions? 

MAYMA consists of three tanks that contain formations of modified microscopic algae. Within each tank, the algae is manipulated into unnatural shapes that replicate man-made material fibres.

MAYMA is one part of Elkayam's two part graduation series SEAmpathy.

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