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Central Saint Martins

Alive: New Design Frontiers

Large chandeliers with white feathers hanging from the ceiling

The seminal exhibition En Vie / Alive was commissioned and presented at the Espace EDF Foundation to cast light on the quest for different ecological design models in our increasingly bioengineered world.

For the first time, it gathered under one roof the work of leading designers, architects and artists driven by nature and biological science, whose thinking ranges from potential sustainable solutions, to poetic interpretations and extreme provocations.

The 34 featured projects created and unravelled a future hybrid world, where our everyday products and manufacturing tools would be ‘alive’: plants would grow products, and bacteria would be genetically re-programmed to ‘biofacture’ new materials, artefacts, energy or medicine.

In order to reflect this new hierarchy of relationships with nature , the exhibition was organised around 5 sections:

  • The Plagiarists / Nature as a model presented the work of designers and architects who adopt biomimicry principles, imitating processes or behaviours found in the natural world, but working with man-made and digital technologies.
  • The New Artisans / Nature as a co-worker focused on designers and architects who collaborate with nature, working with bees, fungi, bacteria, algae or plants and developing new techniques to grow and craft consumer goods.
  • The Bio-Hackers / Reprogrammed, ‘synthetic’ nature explored what the products and interfaces of the future could become with the use of engineered living organisms, illustrating the work of designers and artists who collaborate with synthetic biologists or respond to cutting-edge scientific research in the field of extreme bioengineering.
  • The New Alchemists / Hybridised nature featured designers, architects and artists who propose the merging of biology, chemistry, robotics and nanotechnology to create new hybrid organisms, combining living (biological) with non-living (electronic and chemical) technology.
  • The Agents Provocateurs / Conceptualised and imagined nature encouraged a debate around ethical issues related to living technology and high-tech sustainability, presenting artists and designers who explore a provocative far future.

Prof Carole Collet, Exhibition Curator and catalogue editor, March 2013:

I sincerely hope that this exhibition will inspire generations to come and help establish a map of creative thinkers who dare to imagine new relationships with nature and the living. This project highlights the search for new design frontiers in the quest for new ecological models pertinent for the year 2050 and beyond.

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