In December 2015, designers and scientists took to a spaceship on the roof of Central Saint Martins to discuss how the intersection of design and biology can open future possibilities.
Designers and scientists are innovating uses and applications of living matter. Coupled with the evolution of technologies, our understanding of materiality is changing creating new perspectives on what defines a material and its critical context. A joint initiative between the Design & Living Systems Lab at Central Saint Martins and the Crafts Council, Biosalon was set up to provide a space for designers and scientists to engage with this debate and share the implications of biofabrications from their respective practices.
The conversations were captured in series of interviews from which the following quotes are taken:
If designers are to conceive new materials and products to be grown, they need to understand how biofacturing works, and will need to be able to engage in informed conversations with biologists. Reuniting the teaching of science and the arts is more crucial than ever.
Carole Collet, Professor in Design for Sustainable Futures and Director of the Design & Living Systems Lab at Central Saint Martins
Biology already makes most of our materials for clothing and many of our materials for construction. These are then manipulated to have the properties we want by chemical and mechanical processes that are crude and often polluting. Having control over the way biological systems produce materials will allow us to tailor their properties as they are grown. The dream is to be able to code in the DNA and have it return the material properties that we want, whether they are the iridescence of butterfly wings, the adhesion of gecko feet or the strength of spider silk.
Tom Ellis, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London
The question of what we could make and what we should make is vital, because as biotechnology continues to advance there will be a lot of things we will be able to make, but not all of them are automatically a good idea.
Amy Congdon, tutor on MA Material Futures and PhD student at Central Saint Martins
We have to establish the mindset that organic matter isn't just another cool material, and that it has deep reaching significance and implications. Therefore, the approach to building and making with such materials should be very different to that using 'traditional' building approaches. We have to find ways to understand what it means when our products and buildings aren't 'in' the environment but actually form part of it and its processes.
Andy Gracie is an artist working across installation, robotics, sound and biological practice
Taking a human problem and asking nature how we could improve our system is the key for a sustainable future.
Marlene Huissoud is an experimental designer and graduate from MA Material Futures at Central Saint Martins