Aguahoja: the organic composite that will save us from plastic

Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group apply their Material Ecology approach to the study and design of a new life-programmed material that returns to nature.

Aguahoja I, Pavilion

In recognition of World Water Day—an annual UN observance day that highlights the importance of freshwater advocating for the sustainable management offreshwater resources-the architect-designer and MIT Associate Professor Neri Oxman has created with her Mediated Matter research group an ambitious project for the study and design of biocompatible materials capable of decomposing in a programmed way and proposing a new type of disposal that does not alter the ecosystem.

On show in the MIT Media Lab lobby and already acquired by SFMoMA, Aguahoja consists of two pavilions which collect structures and artifacts that are derived from shrimp shells, bugs exoskeletons and fallen leaves, 3D printed by a robot, shaped by water and augmented with natural pigments. The result is a matter-organism made of biopolymeric compounds that sequesters carbon, enhances pollination, increases soil micro-organisms and provides nutrients. The additional features – the surface’s models, shapes and colors – and all the mechanical, optical, olfactory and gustative properties - can be achieved through flows of organic waste without interfering with ecological niches.

Cellulose, chitosan, pectin and calcium carbonate are combined to produce biodegradable, different-sized compounds that are already grown and where no assembly is required. At the end of its life cycle, when it is no longer useful, this material can be programmed to degrade in water, thus restoring all its constituent elements to their natural ecosystem.

This level of "environmental programming" can in the future enable the construction of structures that modify their properties relative to the season,proposing, above all, a new and effective manufacturing model in the struggle against the 300 million tons of plastic produced each year and poured into the sea.

Neri Oxman and The Mediated Matter Group
MIT Media Lab Lobby, Cambridge, Massachussetts

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