Nano Micro Macro: Adaptive Material Laboratory

Recent developments in material science embrace ever smaller scales of investigation, moving the frontier of innovation into the nano-scale with its novel opportunities for shaping material behavior at the particle level. The ability to manipulate matter at that scale allows for the precise crafting of mechanical, thermal, electrical optical and other properties to address nagging problems in a wide range of application domains such as healthcare, electronics or cosmetics, to just name a few. Applications in buildings are only beginning to emerge.

Work on these ever smaller scales has not narrowed the gap that always existed between scientists and designers, instead, these two related and mutually dependent groups continue to have radically different vocabularies, working methods, values and mindsets. The course addresses the disciplinary gap between these two fields by interrogating the innovation process itself, with a particular interest in the question of scales that sharply divides the world of nano-materials from buildings and products. The second edition of Nano | Micro | Macro, now co-taught by faculty from the GSD and from SEAS, and cross-listed between the GSD and SEAS, continues to be an intensely interdisciplinary, project based setting in which students from both schools learn to navigate the space between science and design through a collaborative group design project. The course provides an interdisciplinary setting of material science and architectural/product design where a sequence of lectures, readings, workshops, lab exercises, design challenges and design charrettes provides a reference and framework that guides students towards understanding and mastering the innovation process itself.

The 2015 course is focused on expanding the application space for several recently developed material systems. These technologies were developed by the Adaptive Materials Technology Platform (lead by Prof. Joanna Aizenberg) at the Wyss Center for Biologically Inspired Engineering, as well as by the research groups of Harvard SEAS professors Katia Bertoldi and David Mooney. Scientists from these group will be present as guest lecturers and critics, and will support hands-on, practical design experiments and explorations.

Student group design studies are the main product of the semester, geared towards presentation in an exhibition setting. Weekly lectures will be given on topics that range from the history of material design and architecture to scales of matter, nano-materials, product design, prototyping and manufacturing on different scales, economic impacts as well as the scales of risk. Some sessions will include interactive case study discussions. Students will be conducting part of their work in the Wyss or SEAS science labs on Oxford Street, as well as at the GSD FabLab. The prototypes are to translate small-scale material behavior into larger scale material formations that give evocative evidence for novel applications on the building / building product scale. There are no prerequisites for the course.