The Complex Beauty of Neri Oxman’s Scientific Designs

Neri Oxman is a designer, an architect, an inventor and an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab. At the Lexus Design Awards, she presented an installation that proved why she is one of the most interesting designers of our time.

Neri Oxman shot by Conor Dohery
Neri Oxman shot by Conor Dohery

As part of last week’s Lexus Design Awards ceremony in Milan, the car manufacturer hosted an exhibition showcasing the prize finalist’s most promising innovations. Based around the concept of “yet”, i.e. combining seemingly bipolar opposites and making them work together in harmony, designers presented their ideas for a better world. Amongst the contestants, Neri Oxman presented an installation that, in accordance with the exhibition’s theme, embodied both light and shadow.

There are few people who would have been more suitable for a design-based exhibition that is all about creating harmony in unexpected ways than her. Oxman is a designer, an architect, an inventor and an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, whose inventions regularly become internet sensations. Their on-skin user interfaces that come in the form of cute metallic tattoos, for example, went viral on Facebook last year. Most frequently quoted saying that in the future, we will be printing our homes and buildings, Oxman is one of the leading pioneers of 3D printing. Her biggest coup so far has been the construction of a number of intricate wearable second skins – technologically constructed materials that serve as the habitat for organic microorganisms.

Neri Oxman presenting her installation at Salone del Mobile
Neri Oxman presenting her installation at Salone del Mobile

What is intriguing is not only the scientific implication that her invention withholds, but also the sheer beauty in its design. With her works that are both synthetic and natural, both functional and visually appealing, she has managed to created her own research area at MIT. Her works that deal with “Material Ecology”, to use a term that she coined for her field of studies, have been shown at MOMA and at the Centre Pompidou.

Looking at her installation for the Lexus Design award, it becomes evident why art institutions show such an interest in her inventions and designs. Using the brand-new technology of 3D glass printing, she created a pillar that created mesmerising shapes of light and shadow on the floor of the exhibition space. After having caught a glimpse of her creation’s complex beauty, we are more than curious to see how Neri Oxman will shape the world of technological design in the future.

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