Brain-Stormer

ARCHITECT, DESIGNER, AND PROFESSOR Neri Oxman is obsessed with anything in nature, but for the moment she’s talking bones. She marvels at how the structure is like the body’s own perfect 3-D fabrication machine. “In nature, there is no separation between design, engineering, and fabrication; the bone does it all,” she says.

Oxman leads the Mediated Matter research group at the MIT Media Laboratory, which focuses on design processes inspired by the natural world. Her striking work, ranging from a customized light-shading system to adaptive furniture, has been exhibited extensively at such institutions as the Museum of Science and MoMA. Oxman is currently exploring how to make concrete as if it were natural tissue, working with her team to create a variable-density, 3-D concrete printer inspired by bone growth.

“This kind of design calls for an integration of processes and of disciplines,” she says, speaking with an ease that suggests it’s somehow nothing at all to revolutionize how we think about the origin and design of materials.

So, what inspires her? Let’s have a look, shall we?