Titolo della tesi: Evolving Matter: the future of materials and design in the biofabrication era
Human Evolution – from Stone Age to Silicon Age – has always been connected to the prevailing material of each era. With biofabrication the matter of the project becomes alive changing our material world, the figure and role of designers – who learn to interact with nature as co-workers – and their relationship with processes and industry.
Analysing emergent phenomena and trends we can outline a projection of how a pos- sible future could be if we prove to be able to grasp and amplify them, as well as of what could happen if we keep on ignoring them. The research questions how design places itself in the transdisciplinary field of biofabrication, how far its range expands and which are indeed its limits, with the aim of understanding to what extent biofabrication is transforming designers’ approach, activity, scope and cultural framework. Furthermore, it questions which is the specific contribution of design in fostering the application, appreciation and consequent diffusion of biofabricated materials within a timeframe appropriate to the urgencies of the contemporary world. This means to bypass the long lead times characterising the industrial development of new materials, to make them rapidly and easily available through everyday objects, thus playing an active part in such design driven material revolution.
After tracing the theoretical framework, the research proceeded with a hands-on experimentation carried out in two stages: the basic experiments useful to gain an understanding of different materials and processes in the biodesign field, learn how to interact with organic and living matter, and develop a methodology which suits the hybrid dimension between design and biology; the fermentation experiments where the proposed methodology is applied to one specific material with an in-depth experimentation on microbial nanocellulose. The fermented material is explored shifting from the micro to the macro scale: from process to material, from product to system. Design approaches biofabrication acting on multiple scales thanks to its envisioning ability: it can intervene on material properties as vehicle for sensations, emotions and meanings, develop application scenarios able to valorise and communicate such properties, but also new production-consumption systems which take into account the systemic inter- connection each material and product has with environment and society.
Biofabrication is giving us the chance to act a radical change of frame and rethink the way we produce and consume, and more generally the way we live and relate to the Earth habitat through our behaviours – strongly entangled with and influenced by materials, resources and processes we use. We have the responsibility, and opportunity, to shift from a parasitic to a mutualistic attitude as a species, move from the linear mechanistic idea of progress and incremental growth – based on consumption and exploitation – to the rhizomatic organicistic idea of evolution – based on use and collaboration –, discarding the twentieth-century anthropocentric mindset and establishing a symbiotic co-existence among all planetary systems.