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Museum of Design Atlanta goes digital with Learning from Nature: The Future of Design

Just Like the Real Thing!

Museum of Design Atlanta goes digital with Learning from Nature: The Future of Design

The HygroSkin Meteorosensitive Pavilion was installed in the FRAC Centre in Orléans, France, from 2011 through 2013. The wood sections naturally opened and closed based on the humidity. (Courtesy MODA)

The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), which touts itself as being the only museum fully focused on design in the Southeast, is the latest institution to get into the virtual exhibition game. Although the physical museum in Atlanta is still closed, Learning from Nature: The Future of Design, a survey of biomimicry-influenced design, is now viewable online.

By using Matterport, a platform for stitching together 360-degree photos into 3D environments, MODA was able to assemble a traversable recreation of the institution’s interior, complete with explanatory texts, embedded videos, and high-resolution photos.

A chair based on a microorganism in Learning from Nature
Radiolaria #1, designed by Lilian Van Daal, was based on the intricate exoskeletons of microscopic radiolaria. (Courtesy MODA)

The topic of the show might seem a bit familiar to those who attended the Cooper Hewitt’s 2019 design triennial, but Learning from Nature, which was developed with the Biomimicry Institute, has a more educational bent. Aside from offering examples of biomimetic design in practice, such as HOK’s Central + Wolfe Campus for Apple (designed in conjunction with Biomimicry 3.8) in Sunnyvale, California, or the design of the ultra-sleek Japanese Shinkansen bullet train, which cuts down on wind resistance by mimicking a kingfisher’s bill, the exhibition also includes plenty of information on how those principles work. Rather than just saying a project was based on a natural analog, time and care have been put into explaining why birds don’t fly through spiderwebs, or how shark skin naturally protects against bacteria and viruses.

Supplementing the virtual installation are interviews with the creators involved that dive into the design and production process. While visitors can now wander around Daniel Meza’s slime mold–inspired table, they can also listen to Meza explain the scientific principles underlying his work.

A set of 3 nature-inspired dresses
Dresses of Birce Ozkan, who operates at the intersection of biomimicry, wearable technology, fashion, and design. (Courtesy MODA)

Another notable work is Requiem, a sound installation from Steve Norton, a Maine-based musician and sound artist, which according to MODA, “combines the noises of birds and frogs thought to be extinct” using recordings sourced from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and The Amphibian Foundation in Atlanta. For the architecture-minded, the museum also spotlights The Biomimetic Office Building, a proof-of-concept development in London designed by Exploration Architecture and Atelier Ten. The project draws upon 13 different types of animals, and if built, promises to be one of the most sustainable buildings ever, thanks to a combination of natural lighting strategies and material-saving construction techniques inspired by bird skulls.

Learning from Nature: The Future of Design has no definite end date and is viewable now.