Wyss Institute Selects: Works from the Permanent Collection is curated by members of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, led by its founding director, Don Ingber, working in collaboration with his co-faculty, Joanna Aizenberg, Jennifer Lewis, Radhika Nagpal, and Pam Silver.

Founded in 2009, the Wyss Institute is a world leader in biodesign engineering. The Institute has eighteen core faculty members and more than 375 full-time scientific and engineering staff from a broad range of disciplines. The collaborators leverage nature’s design principles to develop disruptive technology solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing.

For the exhibition, the Wyss Institute conceived of the theme of Biofuturism, and selected works from the museum’s collection to describe the progression of ideas, objects, visions, and collaborations throughout history that culminated in this new approach to Design Science.

The Biofuturism vision is a new formulation of the Futurism art and design movement that spread across Europe and the world in the early twentieth century, celebrating the energy and form-shaping dynamism of modern technology. The pioneering Futurist visionaries believed that their art would hurtle the world into the future, and they practiced in virtually every medium, ranging from painting, sculpture, theater, film, and architecture to graphic, industrial, interior, urban, and textile design.

“When I pondered the challenge before us, a memory from when I was an undergraduate student popped into my head. I remembered first seeing the works of a group of designers and artists who called themselves ‛Futurists.’ Their goal was to anticipate a future that would be improved through technology innovation, and to influence others through their work. Their vision resonates deeply with our own; however, we at the Wyss Institute go beyond depiction and actually use design to guide development and commercialization of new bioinspired technologies, which we hope will redefine our future and make the world better for all.” —Don Ingber

One century after the birth of the Futurist movement, the Wyss Institute is helping to birth a Biofuturism movement that looks to nature for inspiration, and that uses biological design principles to create technologies for a broad range of medical, industrial, and environmental applications.

In this Selects exhibition, the Wyss Institute team uses objects in Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection and borrows from Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Wyss Institute to explore how Biofuturism can go beyond art anticipating the future and, instead, use design to engineer a better world.

Wyss Institute Selects is made possible by the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund.

Photograph of a spiral staircase on the lefthand side with light emanating from the center of the spiral and furthest stair. The right side features a pearl and beige porcelain vessel shaped like a spiral conch shell.
Wyss Institute Selects
The beauty of natural forms and their underlying design principles provide living organisms with their incredible strength, resilience, and efficiency. Join us for a lively conversation with Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Director of Curatorial and Head of Textiles, and Don Ingber, founding director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and his...
The cover of an exhibition brochure, oriented vertically. In large green letters reads "Wyss Institute Selects". Below this is an illustration of a snail shell with a green submarine emerging from its open end. The word "hydrodynamics" appears below this. The background is a gradient of beige to green, from left to right. Along the left edge is a band of green. In this band reads, in white, "Works from the Permanent Collection" and "July 12, 2019–March 8, 2020".
Wyss Institute Selects
Exploring the theme of Biofuturism in design, Wyss Institute Selects is on display July 12, 2019–March 8, 2020. Download the accompanying brochure. See what objects are on view in this exhibition.
Image features a design for an undersea lounge seen in elevation. Drawing mounted on presentation board with wide margin at right, superimposed by text label. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
The Swimmin’ Sixties: Donald Deskey Associates’ Undersea Lounge
In the early twentieth century, designers often put their work out to sea. Le Corbusier, Swiss-French pioneer of modern architecture, wrote in his seminal 1931 treatise Towards A New Architecture that “a seriously-minded architect (…) will find in a steamship his freedom from an age-long but contemptible enslavement to the past.”[1] The next year, American...
Sport top knitted in black and neon green, with knitted mesh areas for breathability, shaped goring, and knitted-on pocket for removable NFC chip or other electronic devices.
Ultimate knitting technology for ultimate performance
Author: Anne Emlein In celebration of the third annual New York Textile Month, members of the Textile Society of America will author Object of the Day for the month of September. A non-profit professional organization of scholars, educators, and artists in the field of textiles, TSA provides an international forum for the exchange and dissemination...
A High-Performance Prosthetic
In celebration of the museum’s inaugural Cooper Hewitt Lab: Design Access taking place in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery through February 16, we are highlighting innovative accessible design from the permanent collection. The Flex-Foot Cheetah incorporates untraditional materials to solve a design problem that had vexed the medical field for years: finding a...
Flight of the RoboBee
Though it weighs in at just 80 milligrams, you’ll definitely want this little RoboBee in your corner. Designers Kevin Y. Ma, Robert J. Wood, Pakpong Chirarattananon, and Sawyer B. Fuller at Harvard School of Engineering and Applies Sciences, in collaboration with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, followed nature as their guide to create...
The Dreamtime
The Utopia Women’s Batik group was formed in 1977 to empower the women of the Utopia Aboriginal Freehold Property to generate income from creative work. Batik, or wax-resist dyeing, is not indigenous to Australia, but among the many crafts the women were exposed to, batik was the most popular technique. Through the 1980s the group,...
Hanging, 1973. Peter Collingwood (British, 1922 – 2008). Linen, metal rods. Museum purchase from Friends of Textiles Fund, 1976-37-1
Structure and Material in Perfect Harmony
Peter Collingwood was trained as a doctor but abandoned medicine for a distinguished career as a weaver. He studied weaving in the early 1950s with Ethel Mariat, Barbara Sawyer, and Alastair Morton, all preeminent British weavers of the time, before setting up his own studio. Collingwood was consumed by his interest in textile structures, fascinated...