Today’s intersection of design and biology—as seen in design proposals that employ new architectural technologies, and impose principles once only seen in nature, such as biomimicry—prompts a host of new questions. What are the goals and implications of these speculative projects? Do these developments amount to a paradigm shift in design practice? If so, how does it compare to others in the trajectory of major technological developments, from industrialization to the invention of computers?

This presentation illustrates an emerging, and in some ways radical, design practice that draws on biological tenets and even incorporates the use of living materials. The arguments unfold through examinations of contemporary design projects alongside historical case studies. These comparisons illuminate how shifting societal factors drive major changes in design, and reveal the current context for this collaboration between designers and biologists. Research for this presentation also includes interviews with scientists, architects, amateur biologists, industrial designers, and museum curators working in this area.

The field for these collaborations is only set to enlarge, shaped by global imperatives such as the urgency to develop and implement green technologies and the rise of do-it-yourself “homebrew” biology. This convergence of different fields, as well as the expert with the amateur, is ultimately necessary to alleviate the negative impacts made by the legacies of the Industrial Revolution—and will lead to new conceptions of the primary design principles of value, growth, and sustainability.
The School of Visual Arts MFA Design Criticism Department presented “Crossing the Line: The 2010 D-Crit Conference" organized by graduating D-Crit students at the SVA Theatre in New York City on Friday, April 30 2010.

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