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.

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...
Bioimplantable device for reconstructive shoulder surgery in the form of a snowflake, with eight short and eight long projections from a center ring, machine embroidered in white and blue polyester with the base cloth dissolved for a lace-like effect.
Hi-tech Embroidery
Embroidery has an unfairly old-fashioned image, probably because of the pious verses of the 19th century associating needlework with womanly virtue. So when we were developing the exhibition Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance, we were especially excited to find this embroidered implant. It may look like a doily, but it is a serious piece...
Multi-leveled tower-like building supported by cables being dropped into bombed craters depicted in a dynamic and vigorous swooping, diagonal orientation from the upper left to lower right. Three binder holes along left edge.
Experimental Structures
I read Buckminster Fuller’s “Critical Path” early in my studies and was always struck by how his formative education and life circumstances informed his work over the years.  Failure confronted Fuller after he left the Navy, heading him on his “lifelong experiment” with an aim of finding out “what, if anything,” one individual could do...