MetaboliCity “biomimetic architecture modeled on molecular structures and metabolism in living cells.”
MetaboliCity is an urban ecosystem that supports modular farming systems. A lightweight textile structure, whose form is based on non-Euclidean geometry and molecular biology, is woven from millimeter-thick fiberglass rods and serves as the scaffold on which plants are grown. Organic, dye-sensitized solar cells, made from the dye of berries by researchers at the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy in Denmark, are clad to the woven structures to harvest the sun’s energy, powering a pump system that monitors and feeds the plants as well as micro LEDs for ambient light at night. These energy-harvesting canopies mimic the process of photosynthesis, wherein the dye, replacing chlorophyll, absorbs energy from sunlight to produce an electrical current in the solar cells.
The initiative was inspired by our collaboration with Nobel Prize–winning scientist Sir John E. Walker, whose work has greatly contributed to the understanding of energy conversion in the living world. We believe the convergence of design and science and, ultimately, the synthesis with nature can serve to address some of today’s most urgent problems by promoting energy independence, human nutrition, and “metabolic thinking.”
Why design now? Designers around the world are answering this question by creating products, prototypes, buildings, landscapes, messages, and more that address social and environmental challenges. How can we power the world with clean energy? How can we move people and products safely and efficiently? How can we shelter communities in sustainable environments? How can we close the loop of materials extraction and disposal? How can we enable people around the globe to generate and share wealth? How can we improve the quality of life for all people through health-care innovations? How can we communicate ideas effectively and creatively? How can we discover beauty and wisdom in simple forms that use minimal resources? Collectively, designers are seeking to enhance human health, prosperity, and comfort while diminishing the conflicts between people and the global ecosystems we inhabit.
Why Design Now? was the fourth installation in the National Design Triennial exhibition series launched by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in 2000. The Triennial provides a sample of contemporary innovation, looking at what progressive designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and citizens are doing in diverse fields and at different scales around the world. Included are practical solutions already in use as well as experimental ideas designed to inspire further research. A few projects will provoke controversy, answering some questions while raising others. Each one—from a soil-powered table lamp to a post-petroleum urban utopia—celebrates the transformative power of design.