Edible Materials Lab

Edible Materials Lab merges our practice, research, and teaching through the design, curation, and the creation of content for a pop-up public event. The program—which centers on exhibition but also included presentations, demonstrations, and workshops—focuses on materials as a framework for investigating relationships between design and food. Co-curated by Igor Siddiqui and Jen Wong, the exhibition highlights made-from-scratch material samples and prototypes produced by Siddiqui’s University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture students alongside a selection of commercially available products derived from food-related substances from the University’s Materials Lab and Resource Center. Edible Materials Lab builds upon Siddiqui’s ongoing work with bioplastics and seeks to expand, in both scope and scale, the studio’s capacity to customize material properties in design while seeking viable alternatives to conventional products made from non-renewable materials. Animal and plant-based polymers, microbial cellulose, mycelia, minerals, fibers, and natural gums found in ordinary foods are transformed through experimentation and iterative tests. Through a combination of advanced technologies and do-it-yourself methods, the project examines what it means to design materials from-scratch rather than simply working with existing ones. Open-ended and experimental in its premise, Edible Materials Lab offers a selection of material alternatives as a means of soliciting questions about the future of our spaces, buildings, neighborhoods, cities, and the environment at large. How may material production, for example, integrate design with food supply infrastructure without competing with food sources or displacing food-based agricultures?

Edible Materials Lab was commissioned by the Fusebox Festival and featured at thinkEAST, a community-based participatory planning project funded by ArtPlace America.

Invited speakers included Virginia San Fratello of Emerging Objects, artist Ajay Malghan, food historian and futurist Robyn Metcalfe, and Ryan Sansbury the founder of Logro Farms.

Participating students (Advanced Design Studio, Spring 2015, The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture): Gisella Allen, Stephanie Betesh, Marion Piper Cain, Diane Collins, Mary Kate Feldman, Toheed Khawaja, Amy McDonnold, David Mora, Laurel Morrow, Heather Sutherland, David Thompson, Benjamin Vela, Stephanie Vidal, Zachary Walters, Amy Witte, Yingqian Zhuang.

Materials Lab staff: Alvan Bidal-Sanchez, Jody Broccoli-Hickey, Yang Chen, Jamie Epley, Claire Fontaine, Biying Kong, Stancey Moore.

Photographs © Whit Preston (1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 11) ; others by Amy McDonnold, David Mora, Benjamin Vela.