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Alive, New Design Frontiers

Feathered objects hanging from the ceiling

The Alive, New Design Frontiers exhibition, curated by Professor Carole Collet, was the first international design exhibition to showcase the emerging biodesign discipline via a sustainability lens.

Principal Investigator and Curator: Professor Carole Collet
College: Central Saint Martins

Project summary

The exhibition at Espace Foundation EDF in Paris (April-September 2013) featured 34 innovative projects from architecture, design, fashion, art, jewellery and textiles, and showcased expanding design practices at the intersection of design and biology. It presented for the first time a new design landscape, featuring artists and designers who are renegotiating our relationship with the 'living' in the quest for innovative ecological design models.

Collet developed a curatorial framework that situated biodesign practices on a sliding scale from 'natural nature' to a new 'programmable nature' (see figure below), with projects ranging from potential sustainable solutions, to poetic interpretations and extreme provocations. One of the key drivers for the exhibition was to re-evaluate the process and idea of design when confronted with biological principles and bio-fabrication tools such as synthetic biology.

As part of the curation, Collet also commissioned five new pieces of work from architects Philip Beesley, Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen (Head of CITA Research Centre, Royal Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen); Ecologic Studio (London) and designers Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and Suzanne Lee (BioCouture). 'Alive' also included the world premiere of several projects developed specifically for the exhibition, including the first shoe created with bacteria (Suzanne Lee) and the first algae printer (Marin Sawa).

What is common to these projects is their ambitious optimism and the centrality of design as a way of thinking and pursuing research […] in continuous movement between vision and realisation, intuition and hard insight, empiricism and theory, being grounded and being out there […] at the core is the creativity and vision that artists and designer bring to the imagining and realisation of new futures. 

Professor Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Pro-Vice Chancellor, UAL.