October 18, 2010

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Neri Oxman, an award-winning architect and designer and founder of an emerging field known as "material ecology," will speak at Bucknell University at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, in Trout Auditorium of the Vaughan Literature Building.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is part of the ongoing Bucknell Forum series, "Creativity: Beyond the Box."

In 2009, Oxman was named to ICON's list of the "top 20 most influential architects to shape our future" and was selected as one of the "100 most creative people" by Fast Company. In 2008, she was named a "Revolutionary Mind" by SEED magazine. || SEED profile, video

Oxman directs the Mediated Matter research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, which explores how digital design, engineering, material science, artistic forms and ecology can combine to radically transform the design and construction of everyday objects, buildings and systems. She also is the Sony Corporation Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT, where she is an assistant professor. || MIT Media Lab bio, related items

Technology, nature in harmony
One example of Oxman's design philosophy is "The Beast," a chaise longue molded of 21 different materials of varying strength and springiness that moves and reshapes with a person's body weight. Another is "Construction in Vivo," a method for making walls out of carbon nanotubes that morph into pillars or windows. The tubes thicken where they need to bear weight, or thin to let in light. "Construction in Vivo" was designed in collaboration with A. John Hart at the University of Michigan.

Oxman says her goal is to enhance the relationship between the built and the natural environments by employing design principles inspired by nature and implementing them in the invention of digital design technologies.

"The biological world is displacing the machine as a general model of design," Oxman said. "We must look past the surface of an object and think instead about how it behaves. In my designs, the disciplines of art, science, architecture and ecology fuse to form a new kind of eco-activism, one based on the lessons of biomimicry (in which we look to nature for design solutions)."

Material ecology founder
"Material ecology is an artistic/scientific philosophy, synonymous with the ecology of the artificial world," Oxman said. "I am hoping that one can see it as a subfield of design that explores the inter-relationship between our artificial environment — what we wear, how we use our products, how we construct our habitat — and how those constructions relate to the natural environment."

Oxman has won numerous awards, including the inaugural Earth Award in 2009 in recognition of her groundbreaking project FAB.REcology, which combines principles of biomimicking with the design and construction of built environments. She also has received a Graham Foundation Carter Manny Award and a METROPOLIS Next Generation Award.

Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and is part of the museum's permanent collection. Her other exhibitions include medical devices at the Museum of Science in Boston, the FRAC Collection in Orleans, France, and the 2010 Beijing Biennale.

Oxman received her Ph.D. in design computation as a Presidential Fellow at MIT, where she developed the theory and practice of material-based design computation. She earned her diploma from the Architectural Association after attending the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, and the Department of Medical Sciences at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Bucknell Forum
The Bucknell Forum series, "Creativity: Beyond the Box," features individuals from a wide range of fields who not only exemplify creativity as practitioners, but who also can provide thoughtful and insightful commentary or interactive experiences on new ways of being creative. || Past Bucknell Forum events

Contact: Division of Communications