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Pages 2–11
First published 20 July 2015

How do the origins of life sciences influence 21st century design thinking?

Rachel Armstrong


How can the origins of life sciences inform design thinking in an ecological era? This paper considers the possibility of the origins of life sciences as being more than a blue sky practice for the development of advanced scientific theories but also offers a technical platform for designing and engineering life-like solutions for an ecological era. A design-led study of dissipative systems is discussed as a form of natural computing and innovation platform that can deal with probability and whose ontology (nature of becoming) is consistent with complexity, nonlinear dynamics and the flow of energy and matter. However, since the proposed approaches do not yet formally exist as products or mature technologies, exemplary design-led projects are introduced to explore the principles of design and engineering with these origins of life strategies. A portfolio of work is presented that includes the The Hylozoic Ground installation and Future Venice projects. Such experimental work investigates the value of collaborations between the origins of sciences and design practice as a strategic approach towards new systems such as, artificial soils—which may not only be recognised as applied research fields that offer insights into the transition from inert to living matter—but also give rise to potential cultural impacts and commercial opportunities in the built environment.