Biotechnology presents a dynamic new set of solutions to material challenges ranging from the body to the nonhuman realm and environment. Despite its ingenuity, biotechnology alone cannot provide complete solutions to the challenges we face in the 21st century, nor does it meet every aspect of our needs. While the radical potential of biotechnology can partly be achieved through new tools, the frameworks for the practice of biodesign are also important in generating systemic transformation in how we work and live. As an expression of “living” systems, biodesign interrogates biotechnological innovation by holding ideas to account, and particularly, in exploring the potential opportunities and dangers of manipulating life. Embracing more than human-centered practices, which have dominated the field of design, biodesign also creates the conditions for developing more inclusive, multiperspective, technologically convergent approaches that open up new spaces for innovation, and challenges some of the fundamental premises that shape our current concepts and practices about life and technology. Drawing on a range of examples, this talk outlines its multidisciplinary, convergent, radically creative nature and how it asks searching questions of what it means to be “human.”
Rachel Armstrong, Professor, Newcastle University
Rachel Armstrong is professor of experimental architecture at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University, United Kingdom, who explores how buildings can incorporate some of the properties of living systems to become "living architectures." She was coordinator for the FET Open Living Architecture project (April 2016-June 2019) and coordinates the EU Innovation Fund ALICE project. She is a Rising Waters II Fellow with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (April-May 2016) and a 2010 Senior TED Fellow. She is also a member of the Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment at Newcastle University and director and founder of the Experimental Architecture Group (EAG), whose work has been published and exhibited internationally.