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BioTinkering with mycelium

Valentina Rognoli (Politecnico di Milano)

Associate Professor in the Design Department at the School of Design, Politecnico di Milano. Here, she studied, and began her academic career focused on Materials for Design. She has been a pioneer in this field, starting almost twenty years ago and establishing an internationally recognised expertise on the topic both in research and education. For her PhD, she undertook a unique and innovative study on a key but a little treated topic that is the expressive-sensorial dimension of materials of Design and their experiential aspects. This research has greatly influenced the teaching methodologies on materials at the School of Design.

At present, her research and teaching activities are focusing on pioneering and challenging topics as DIY-Materials for social innovation and sustainability; Bio-based and circular Materials; Urban Materials and Materials from Waste and food Waste; Materials for interactions and IoT (ICS Materials); Speculative Materials; Tinkering with materials, Materials Driven Design method, CMF design, emerging materials experiences, and material education in the field of Design. She participates as principal investigator in a European Project called Made, co-funded by Creative Europe Programme of The European Union, which aims at boosting talents towards circular economies across Europe.

Moreover, she is the author of over 50 publications. She organised international workshops and events, invited speaker and reviewer for relevant journals and international conferences. Many international scholars recognised in the scientific community follow, inspire and appreciate her research and educational approach.

Barbara Pollini (Politecnico di Milano)

Her background is deeply rooted in sustainable design, with a master in Ecodesign and Eco-innovation and a master's degree in Computational Design. She has been especially investigating sustainable materials, approaching them from different perspectives: circular materials, organic materials and biofabricated materials paying attention to both industrial productions and self-production phenomena such as DIY-Materials.

She is currently a PhD candidate at the Polytechnic University of Milan, with a research focusing on those material scenarios based on the regenerative processes of resources instead of depletion, including living materials (made of and with living organisms) and life-enabling materials (inert materials welcoming and supporting life).

Project Description

A DIY approach and open-source philosophy characterize Biodesign's origin. If for DIY-Materials tinkering is a key activity in developing new materials, for the development of biofabricated materials, we can talk about bio-tinkering with almost the same meaning: tinkering with materials of biological origin. According to the DIYbio code, developed in 2011 as a framework to achieve a DIYbio community of practitioners across Europe and the US, “Tinkering with biology leads to insight; insight leads to innovation”.

The research group headed by Valentina Rognoli at the Polytechnic University of Milan followed many students and designers in developing new DIY-Materials. Among these projects, some see the involvement of living organisms, such as plants, algae, and mycelium; here, biotinkering has been an essential step in the material research, which led to the theses on the mycelium that we will be sharing.

Many designers are triggered to tinker with biological components also for their sustainable potential. Within the same research group, Barbara Pollini is a PhD candidate focusing on this topic, trying to frame biofabricated materials in the context of sustainable design. Intersecting the constantly evolving concept of sustainability, the material design discipline and biodesign, the study aims to understand the implications that living materials can have on design. Early findings, highlighting the regenerative potential of biomanufacturing processes and the reconciling attitude of living materials, led her to the development of the concept of Healing Materialities as a framework for this new emerging materiality.

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