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nerioxman_monocoque1_01_620_413_c1Do you remember in High School when they made you take the assessment test for your possible career options according to how you answered a panel of questions?

When I got mine back it basically indicated that I could choose careers that were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Artist VS Scientist. I showed the results to my parents and being practical and of course protective my dad said “I think you might want to consider the medical field before you commit to being a musician or a painter.”

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I knew they meant well and were looking out for my best interests and honestly I felt really torn so advice on what to do was needed. I loved science, specifically biology, but I also found myself in the art room, going to concerts, or “happenings” whenever a free moment was to be found.

So I started college in the Pre-med program. I suffered through hours of organic chemistry and math courses while at the same time taking every art history, or art course I could fit in. This usually put me at 21 credits every semester and I was exhausted at the end of my Junior year. I needed to take the MCAT test in the next few months, then something happened…. my dad got very ill. They told us he was dying and we started to prepare ourselves.

I told my dad I was dropping out of school and wanted to spend time with him. We wanted to take all of those trips that we never took, before it was too late. Then the phone call came. They were wrong. They had misdiagnosed and turns out he wasn’t dying at all. World rocked I was simultaniously thrilled and lost. Did I really want to be a member of a profession that could make such a gross error?

And so I told my dad that I needed to travel. I promised I would return to school but I really needed some time to figure out what I should do. As it turned out I found that I spent most of my free time in museums, going to architecture lectures, and taking courses in the arts. While still fascinated by quantum physics and the such I decided that the arts was where I belonged.



Going back to school was still a dilemma because I loved all my classes in fine arts, art history, interior design, graphic design and architecture.  How to decide on one was frustrating. I finally ended up majoring in Art Education because I could study them all and figured I would specialize in a Masters later. It took me almost ten years later but I did re-enroll and got my second degree in interiors.

Now here comes the really great part…. as I began to explore my new field I found that there were others who were integrating their love for science into their interiors, buildings, artwork, and furniture.

People like Neri Oxman who’s goal is to enhance the relationship between the built and the natural environments by employing design principles inspired by nature.

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Areas of application include product and architectural design, as well as digital fabrication and construction. Both an architect and designer, Neri Oxman is the Sony Corporation Career Development Professor and Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Oxman says she studies processes that occur in nature, deciphering them by means of computerized codes that she herself creates, and uses them for construction-related applications as well as for designing aesthetic objects. Here is one of  her prototype chairs

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Not sure if I would readily use this in any of my projects but is is supposed to be exceedingly comfortable and has been used in practical applications for those who are recovering from injury. Check out her link above to see some other really amazing products she has been developing.

This idea of using what nature has already designed and incorporating it into our modern day designs is being studied in the design discipline “biomimicry“. The core idea is that Nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with: energy, food production, climate control, non-toxic chemistry, transportation, packaging, and a whole lot more. This definition was taken from Asknature.org where you can read more about all of the advances being made by using this design discipline.

Michael Pawlyn is another architect who’s work has focused on the use of biomimicry in his work. From 1997 to 2007 he worked with Grimshaw Architects and was part of the core team that designed the Eden Project. The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in Cornwall, England. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world.


The complex is dominated by two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species, and each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal, inflated, plastic cells supported by steel frames. See Michael Pawlyn’s TED talk lecture here where he discusses how they used nature to help them with the fabrication of this rather amazing structure.

On a personal note I’ve been using nature, specifically close ups of various natural materials in the development of the fabric line I’ve been working on.

The surface of an urchin shell


A mosquito egg

nature.com mosquito egg

Tortoise shell bamboo


Some great inspiration here. I was really stuck for a awhile. Endless drawings of things that didn’t seem to have any heart in them. No real reason or direction. Then I remembered the work of Neri Oxman and began looking to biology/nature for inspiration and there it was.  When art and science are combined you get some very interesting solutions. It’s about alchemy, which is the idea this blog was originally founded around. Combining various and sometimes disparate thoughts, ideologies, or items to create something much stronger when combined. “Is it art vs. science or not?” I say a resounding NOT.

Images provided courtesy of http://www.materialecology.com, http://www.seo.com, http://www.desktopbackgrounds.me, http://www.interviewmagazine.com, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:JürgenMatern, http://www.web.stagram.com, http://www.nature.com, http://www.lucasproductions.com

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