Nearly two years ago, we conceived of the Biodesign Challenge (BDC) as an open-ended experiment: What visions would art and design students create, what possibilities would they imagine if they were given the tools of biotechnology and access to scientific mentorship?
BDC was initially designed to explore the implications of emerging biotech for the world. It was founded on the belief that young artists and designers could bring new perspectives to the technology, shed light on potential environmental and cultural consequences, and open up new possibilities.
For the past academic year, I’ve been traveling between colleges to meet the students. Many hadn’t taken a biology class since high school, and yet they were 3D printing living materials, building ecosystems and manipulating DNA, all as part of their art and design curricula. I witnessed students falling in love with slime mold, spiders, lichen, cacti, and silkworms as inspirations and living substrates for their work.
I also witnessed the growth of a community. Artists, designers, and scientists who might ordinarily keep to opposite sides of campus came together to work with the students.
Here are some highlights from 2016. We’re already gearing up for BDC 2017:
BDC Summit at MoMA
The teams, chosen from more than 130 participating students, showcased projects at Museum of Modern Art’s Bartos Theater during our daylong BDC Summit.
Keynote speakers included Paola Antonelli, MoMA's senior curator of architecture and design, and Suzanne Lee, creative director of Modern Meadow and founder of Biofabricate. Learn More
SVA and Tech Museum showcase BDC projects
A weeklong gallery show, called Our Biotech Future(s): Student Projects from the Biodesign Challenge, took place at School of Visual Arts (SVA). Many thanks to Suzanne Anker, Chair of the Fine Arts Department, and her team for making the show possible.
BDC in the News
Science Friday did a video, article, and radio segment on the BDC Summit. It’s a perfect summary if you missed the event.
Fast Company Design covered the BDC Summit, highlighting some of the students in context of contemporary biodesign.
Founders Fund featured BDC on Anatomy of Next, its new multimedia blog.
Announcing BDC 2016 Winners!
Fashion Institute of Technology
BIOESTERS: Tessa Callaghan, Gian Cui, Aleksandra Gosiewski, Aaron Nesser, Theanne Schiros, Asta Skocir
By creating yarn from extruded bacteria and fungi, Bioesters explored sustainable alternatives to wearable materials .
School of Visual Arts
MYOTOMATO: Andrew Cziraki, Victor Taboada, Darya Warner & John Wells
To supplement nutrition, MyoTomato bioengineered a tomato plant to produce myoglobin, a protein normally found in meat.
Autodesk Prize for Best Visualization
Southern California Institute of Architecture
MUTUA: Mun Yi Cheng, Caleb Fisher, Fangyuan Hu, Brendan Ho, Ryan Odom, Anthony Stoffella & Xiangtia Sun
A panel inside homes on which organisms grow and behave as biosensors and living art, Mutua presented a living wall for interior design.
Carnegie Mellon University
SYMBIOSIS: Stowe Hammarburg, Daniel Kim, Yooyoung Ko, Zachary Schwemler & Jessica Shen
A satirical piece featuring bioengineered plants that release caffeine into the air during the day and melatonin at night, Symbiosis critiqued the way modern technology has influenced our sleep patterns.
Rensselaer Polytechnic University
LIVE(R) CLEAR: Amanda Harrold, Kathleen McDermott, Jacob Steiner and Perrine Papillaud, Jerry Huang
A living membrane on the surface of toilet bowls, Live(r) Clear proposed a toilet liner that traps estrogen and other pharmaceuticals excreted in urine.
New York University
FLOAT FARM: Ayaka Habu, Carter Bird, Theo Mandin-Lee
Set in a once derelict dry dock in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Float Farm designed a greenmarket powered by an algae roof and housed on a barge.
Maryland Institute College of Art
STARTER CULTURE: Gage Branda, Sarah Whelton, Jake O’Hagan, Emma Whitlock
A biomaterials starter kit designed to introduce makers to the expansive world of biomaterials, the Starter Culture team produced a maker’s kit for bioplastics, mycelium and silk proteins.
School of The Art Institute of Chicago
DEWPOINT: Bailey Beatt, Maurice Hampton, Jackie Huang, Sam Scheib
A set of spiny panels, Dewpoint drew inspiration from cactis’ ability to efficiently collect and store water droplets from fog.
University Of Pennsylvania
STABILIMENTUM: Mónica Butler & Jiwon Woo
Latin for support, Stabilimentum is a couture mask meant to filter air using live spiders and the electrostatic properties of their silk.