Designed Morphologies

Corrie Van Sice

Designed Morphologies is an emerging field of fabrication research based in concepts of bio-mimesis, sustainability and design.

Nature organizes matter into unique formations to maximize strength where it is needed and allow for material conservation where it is not.  Designed Morphologies takes inspiration from these natural structures and applies it to the development of new materials, techniques and forms.  Computer-aided design has become highly dynamic, allowing for the creation of digital models that simulate this natural complexity, yet cannot currently be fabricated.  Designed Morphologies ultimately aims to evolve new physical methods of making to provide a variety of density, directional strength, and gradation that enables the production of truly bio-mimetic designs.  This initial work represents several experiments in rethinking fabrication through non-toxic material aggregation, deposition and growth.

Ecological design provides a new way of thinking about human interventions into the natural world by going beyond many streams of environmentalism, which often merely call for a minimization of human impacts on the natural world. Ecological design thus can be defined as a careful and deliberate form of human intervention with the natural environment that attempts to improve natural conditions or reverse environmentally destructive impacts.[3]

Not long ago, design by nature could be said to be a process of looking to nature like a powerful nemesis - one to understand in full in order to be escaped. Space exploration was a revelation to the world of the 1960s -- supplying an image of the earth as a lush kaleidoscopic whole silently rotating in space.  The image ostensibly revealed our dependency on the well being of the planet. Cold War doomsday ideologies offered the conceptual framework for designs that aimed at colonizing space and living within bio-domes, but over time the movement has transformed. Ecological Design today is typified by projects like John Todd’s EcoMachines, filtration systems for water treatment that mimic the natural processes of cleansing waste water. Each appears more like landscape architecture than a water treatment facility. The technology of these system includes micro-organisms, anaerobic environments, ponds and fields of plants. This change represents a shift from a philosophy of isolation, where technology was a means of hedging oneself from harsh nature, to a philosophy of synergy. My own work is part of this transformation which recognizes human activities as part and parcel to a global ecosystem. Developing controlled methods for fabricating in collaboration with mycelium, organic tissues and common elements is a request for a shift in industrial consciousness.

Bionic Car
Bone Yard – 3DP in Bone
Anthony Atala: Growing New Organs
E. chromi: Living Colour from Bacteria
BioCouture: Cellulose Fabric from Kombucha
Ecovative Design: Insulation and Packaging from Mushrooms
Neri Oxman: Mediated Matter

Several experiments are being performed towards the larger goal of innovating in fabrication technologies. These include building a 3d printer and testing various non-toxic powder printing recipes, making molds for mycelium structures, calcium carbonate aggregation through electrolysis (making fake coral), and tissue culturing. The results and implications of these activities will be described in a way that considers how they may alter the culture of making things: a designed description in the form of printed illustrations and video documentation will be presented.