CPNAS - Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences
Print Page


March 1, 2018 - July 31, 2018

NAS Building, 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W.

Free. Photo ID required.

Download the e-catalog

Nature made us half water. With water, the biological world facilitates customization of an organism’s physical and chemical properties—through growth and degradation—as a function of genes and environmental constraints.

Designed goods, however—including garments, products, and buildings—have little to none of the fluid that gives life. More than 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, leaving harmful imprints on the environment: our seas, our trees, our bodies. Less than 10% of this material is recycled, and the rest becomes waste, dumped into landfills and oceans. These materials utilize raw ingredients that are extracted from the earth faster than they can be replenished, and are processed using toxic chemicals that leach out of these goods as they degrade back into the earth over thousands of years.

Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group at MIT Media Lab aim to subvert this cycle. Their Aguahoja series features structures that are digitally designed and robotically fabricated out of the most abundant materials on our planet— the very materials found in trees, crustaceans, and apples. Cellulose, chitosan, and pectin are parametrically compounded, functionally graded, and digitally fabricated to create biodegradable composites with functional, mechanical, chemical, and optical gradients across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters. The structures are designed as if they were grown; no assembly is required. This exhibition features four structures from the Aguahoja Hex series.

Derived from organic matter, printed by a robot, and shaped by water, this work points towards a future where the grown and the made unite. Aguahoja embodies the Material Ecology design approach to material formation and decay by design; it is a realization of the ancient biblical verse “From Dust to Dust”―from water to water.

Research and Design

The Mediated Matter Group

Contributing Team Members
Jorge Duro-Royo, Joshua Van Zak, Yen-Ju (Tim) Tai,
Andrea Ling, Christoph Bader, Nic Hogan,
Barrak Darweesh, Laia Mogas-Soldevilla,
Daniel Lizardo, João Costa, Sunanda Sharma, Dr. James Weaver
Matthew Bradford, Loewen Cavill, Emily Ryeom,
Aury Hay, Yi Gong, Brian Huang, Joseph Faraguna,
Prof. Neri Oxman

MIT Media Lab,
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)
Autodesk BUILD Space
TBA-21 (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary),
Wyss Institute at Harvard University

This exhibition was organized by Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity. It coincides with the NAS' March 2018 colloquium Creativity and Collaboration: Revisiting Cybernetic Serendipity.

Join the conversation on social media with #Aguahoja.

Image at left:

Skin 35% pectin (weight/volume), 5% acetic acid (volume/volume)
Shell: 14% chitosan (weight/volume), 7% acetic acid (volume/volume), 60% cellulose (volume/volume), 1% glycerin (volume/volume)

Copyright © 2024. National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. 500 Fifth St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.
Privacy Statement | Institutional Policies and Procedures | Terms of Use
Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software