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Neri Oxman

Cutting Edge Designer, Mediated Matter Director at MIT Media Lab, One of Esquire’s “Best and Brightest”


Neri Oxman is a designer who combines breakthroughs in materials science with design principles found in nature. Featured on the cover of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” issue in 2009, Oxman directs the Mediated Matter research group at the MIT Media Lab and is the founder of the MaterialEcology design lab, a research initiative that undertakes design at the intersection of architecture, engineering, computation and ecology.

Oxman is the Sony Corporation Career Development Professor and Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Her group explores how digital design, engineering, material science, artistic forms and ecology can combine to radically transform the design and construction of everyday objects, buildings, and systems. Oxman’s goal is to enhance the relationship between the built and the natural environment by using design principles inspired by nature and employing them in digital design technologies.

Oxman’s best known work, “Beast,” is a chaise lounge made from eight materials of varying flexibility that hugs your body, reacting to each movement. She describes it as being “all about an efficiency of material, distributing it according to your body load.” The Beast chair is a prime example of the “living-synthetic constructions” for which Oxman is famous.

More recent projects point to the future of energy-efficiency with building materials that can breathe, grow and react to the environment like living tissue. Oxman’s revolutionary approach makes a powerful case for adapting sustainable, nature-derived concepts to tackle our most daunting challenges in design, business, society, the environment and our daily lives. “Forget about the way it looks,” she says. “Think about the way it behaves.”

Previously a medical scholar at the Hebrew University and the Technion Institute of Technology, Oxman is a graduate of the AA School of Architecture and holds a PhD in design computation as a Presidential Fellow at MIT. She has won numerous awards, including an International Earth Award for Future-Crucial Design, a Graham Foundation Carter Manny Award, and a METROPOLIS Next Generation Award. She was named one of Esquire’s “Best and Brightest,” listed in the “Top 20 Most Influential Architects to Shape Our Future” and hailed as a “Revolutionary Mind” by ED Magazine. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC, the Museum of Science in Boston, and the 2010 Beijing Biennial.

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December 1, 2012