Stepping into most any store and scanning the shelves of products, all packaged for consumption and destined for recycling or the dumps, makes you feel like a truly sustainable world is a daunting, if not impossible, prospect. But the Mediated Matter Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by researcher and designer Neri Oxman, is hoping to get people to think differently about the objects and structures we make. With their latest research and art installation, Aquahoja I, the group created polymers derived from organic matter, 3D-printed by a robot, and shaped by water.
Mediated Matter calls this process "designing for decay." Whereas most plastics, wood, glass, and metals are never recycled after they have outlived their function, the group's biopolymers are designed to decompose upon reaching the end of its product life cycle, returning to the earth instead of being destined for a dump.