FROM THE LIBRARY
LabStudio: Design Research between Architecture and Biology
by Jenny E. Sabin and Peter Lloyd Jones
By Julia Buntaine, Editor in Chief
The first time I saw Jenny E. Sabin’s work was at MoMA PS1 in the summer of 2017. Lured by a promotional image, I decided to keep myself largely in the dark about the installation, a cold-read habit I enact when I think I’m really going to like something (I did). Lumen, an interactive sculptural-architectural installation, is made of over one million yards of digitally knitted fiber. Hanging down in tubules which occasionally lightly misted visitors within their proximity, Lumen’s responsive textiles provided shade and cool during the oppressively hot New York summer days, and a glowing ethereal atmosphere at night. Inspired by forms and designs in biology, mathematics, and engineering, Sabin installed this piece as part of MoMA’s Young Architects Program. For me, seeing this piece at MoMA signaled the strength of a growing trend in architecture – biomimicry, or the use of biological forms and processes to inform the design principles in man-made materials, objects, and structures.
"We are all bound to matter and its effects." This sentence by Antoine Picon appears in the introduction of LabStudio, illustrating the fundamental connection between two disciplines - biology and architecture - that are structurally bound and determined by the same underlying physical forces. This commonality between the two goes beyond the general; the principle of cellular tensegrity (how cells hold themselves together, to put it simply) was discovered by biologist Donald Ingber - he borrowed from the language of architecture, having learned about tensegrity in architectural structures as a young student studying Buckminster Fuller. In reverse, architecture has long looked to nature for design principles; Vitruvius, Roman military engineer and architect, wrote extensively about modeling the design of the cathedral as based on the proportions of the human body. Architecture continues to look to nature for inspiration and innovation, and biology is increasingly examining the spatial relationships between biological structures as playing key roles in processes such as embryonic and disease development.
LabStudio: Design Research between Architecture and Biology (2018) outlines the work of the eponymous hybrid research and design network out of Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania. Jenny E. Sabin and Peter Lloyd Jones, co-authors and co-founders of LabStudio, argue for an atmosphere of active collaboration between biology and architecture by enacting “parallel and cross-over thinking between architectural research, cell and systems biology, materials science, and engineering…” Born from a history of mutual exchange, Sabin and Jones give us dozens of in-house examples of how the architecture-biology relationship can be supported and actively fostered in the creation of new science, art, and transdisciplinary projects.
With chapter titles like "eSkin: BioInspired Adaptive Materials" and "Motility: Adaptive Architecture and Personalized Medicine" the breadth of Sabin and Jones' work is immediately apparent. The book itself is the result of, and testament to, cross-disciplinary collaboration - with Sabin as the architect and Jones as the biologist. The idea that the biological sciences and architecture share many of the same fundamental concerns is not new, but the formalization of this idea in a comprehensive and aesthetic text is. LabStudio is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of architecture, innovation in the biological sciences, and in the fruitful interaction between the arts and sciences.
Get LabStudio online HERE.