Neri Oxman is The Designer Of The Bio Era

30.04.2019 | By PAOLO BOCCHI

Hitting the headlines for an alleged flirt with Brad Pitt, Neri Oxman is no model, actress nor Hollywood fame seeker. Au contraire, Neri Oxman is the designer that’s bringing design from the industrial age to the bio era. Let’s see how, in 4 of her projects.


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Neri Oxman is obviously a beautiful woman.

But that’s not what we’re here for.

Neri Oxman made it (or was thrown) into the social limelight for an alleged love story with Brad Pitt.

But that’s not what we’re here for.

Neri Oxman is a designer. Sui generis.

And yes, that’s what we’re here for.

Neri Oxman, designer, architect, conceptual artist and biologist, was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1976. A couple her works are now being exposed at Milan’s Triennale; namely, a project on melanin on architectural scale and a video introducing the Silk Pavilion, the first of the 4 brainchildren we’ve selected to approach her complex, visionary work.


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Silk Pavilion, 2013

The Silk Pavilion explores and carries out the relation between digital and biological manufacturing. Here, tension and compression, the two forces of life, have a pivotal role.

Thanks to silk worms. Over its life cycle, a silk worm creates a highly sophisticated structure: the cabin where to complete it metamorphosis. To do so, it doesn’t combine materials, but two proteins in different concentrations. One makes the structure, the other is the substance that glues such fibres together. So, the silk worm creates a tensile structure first, then starts spinning its cocoon. Then we humans normally immerse the cocoons in boiling water to kill their inhabitants. But structures like this Pavilion show that it’s possible to create silk fabric without the need to boil any cocoon. To everyone’s great satisfaction. As they spin biological silk over robotically spun silk, which is what happens in the Pavilion, it takes 2-3 weeks to 6500 silkworms to spin 6500 kilometers of thread.


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Wanderers,  2014-2016

Wanderers is a series of “computationally grown and additively manufactured wearebles”.

In other words, the project by Neri Oxman that’s closest to what we may call “fashion”. It comprises a whole “collection” of items with planet-inspired names (Qamar, Zuhal, Otaared, Mushtari) and it gives us the precious opportunity to reflect on the future of the humankind’s journey on Earth. The project, in fact, points out the possibility of a new era marked by the symbiosis between our bodies, the micro-organisms living in them and our products (including buildings). Something that Neri Oxman likes to call “material ecology”. Basically, it’s the first “grown”(not “manufactured”) fashion collection.


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Rottlace, 2016

Rottlace is a family of masks that was especially created for the Icelandic (and sui generis, too) musician Bjork. The project drew inspiration from the singer’s album “Vulnicura” (2015) and it is intended as a new form of portrait, but it becomes, at its highest and conclusion, a genuine representation of reincarnation, or something  very close to it. The parameters that Neri Oxman used to carry out this project/journey were basically Bjork’s facial traits. The underlying idea, that it’s possible to observe and bring to light someone’s “face underneath their skin”. The final result is a new identity, independent from its origins.


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Aguahoja, 2016-2018

This time you’ll need to imagine a pair of wings, whose visible structures remind of tree branching, insect exoskeletons and human bones. By mixing all these together you’ll get a 5-meter high sculpture composed by organic matter and built thanks to a robotic 3D-print process. The sculpture exists as the fruit of a combination of nature and technology, an encounter conducted through an innovative, strictly non-serial production mode. Here, water, prawn, digital manufacturing, cellulose come together, giving birth to a sort of living sculpture/structure originated from the dissociation in water of certain elements; that, here, are born again to a new life.


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