The Natural Materials Studio will be a lab where research, artistic practice, and conversation are supplemented by a library of digital tutorials; natural, found and recycled materials; and made objects. We want to create a future that is fully centered around an intersection of the circular design principles – reuse, recycle, renew & rethink – and emergent practices based on principles of Gaia theory*, symbiosis, and other systems-centered theories. This studio will serve as a non-hierarchical and inclusive site for discourse, course development, research, and invention.


The objective of this project is to create a research space for students and faculty to share knowledge of and experiment with diverse biomaterials —natural and/or man-made waste— that are abundant in our local environment in China. The Studio will be committed to offering research assistantships for students in a partnership with faculty in order to open up new territories for material and product design. We want to identify the context for the development of natural materials to bring possibilities to local raw materials and strengthen relationships with local communities. Investigating local/regional materials and crafts – this output will both be a resource for Shanghai communities and a framework for dialogue and knowledge exchange between NYUSH and surrounding communities. The research activities and outputs will be archived in an open-source library that will be accessible to the NYUSH community and beyond. Additionally, research findings will be also disseminated through exhibitions, scientific publications, public events, and workshops.

Aligned with NYU-2040Now’s intention to achieve a climate neutral state, we want to create a resource that encourages multiple courses to focus on sustainability and innovation along with both, digital and hand craft. Through experimentation we will produce new biomaterials that will result from the cultivation of organisms, making our own, and cooking recipes. Specifically, this studio will play a key role in existing courses including the Interactive Media Arts courses: Remade in China and Industrial Design in Action, and the Visual Arts courses: Foundations in Visual Arts and Installation Art as well as the development of a new course – Art and the Anthropocene: Material-based Activism; a collaboration between both departments. Additionally, the studio will collaborate with new co-curricular initiatives at NYUSH – the Re-Makerspace, Qiantan Campus Garden Project and Courses on the Rooftop – and support future courses and workshops to create discourses around intersections between nature, materiality, environmentalism and human-centrism.

The Natural Materials Studio will support faculty in developing courses that will provide students with a well-rounded understanding of processes and methods involved in designing for a loop life cycle. With access to the latest thinking regarding materials, sustainable design, and ecology, students will be introduced to unique ways of understanding resources and designing (with) materials. This understanding will radically change and enhance their relationship with materials and artifacts. Consequently, students in these courses will be able to create pieces that work with nature, incorporating sustainability in their design process and building a deeper connection between sources, processes, and outcomes, ultimately preserving life and nature.