"There is nothing that I consider unachievable or undoable or inconceivable," said Neri Oxman of MIT.
It's largely for those reasons, and her groundbreaking work as a designer, architect, artist and chief of the MIT Media Lab's Mediated Matter group, that Oxman has been awarded the 2014 Vilcek Prize in Design. The Vilcek Prize is given to foreign-born scientists and artists living and working in the United States. The prizes are given annually to candidates in biomedical research and a various categories in the arts.
Oxman, a resident of Boston, is also the Sony Corporation Career Development professor and assistant professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab.
As part of her latest investigations, Oxman has converted a robotic arm to a 3D printer. She's undertaken a project to find the Next Big Use for the technology.
"How can we reinterpret 3D printing in a way that suggests a new design language?" Oxman said.
Much like pioneers in the field such as Professor Ronald Rael at UC Berkeley and architect and entrepreneur Enrico Dini, Oxman is engaged in investigating how 3D printing relates to various materials and how those materials might one day be used.
"Concrete can be many things," Oxman says. "Concrete can become a transparent window."
It was Oxman, raised in Israel and relocated to the United States in 2005, who coined the phrase "material ecology" to define the core of what she does. By juxtaposing various properties against environmental realities, Oxman hopes to find new forms, and though her designs may be the result of modern technologies like 3D printing, she says they're largely inspired by elemental, natural structures.
"The future is closer than we think," Oxman says. "In fact, versions of it are already present in our midst."
With her current focus on construction and 3D printers as construction tools, Oxman is considering scale, and the problem of how the technology can be used to create large structures. One of those methods, using a series of robots to create large structures, utilizes fast curing materials which essentially become forms for structural walls and serve as thermal insulation layer within those walls.
The work is aimed at taking advantage of the speed, geometrical capabilities and cost-saving advantages of 3D printing processes. Oxman has also said she intends to begin work on ways builders might incorporate utilitarian functionality like wiring and plumbing directly into 3D printing construction processes.
Oxman, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Smithsonian, won the Vilcek Prize for "exceptional achievement" in her career and she's set to receive the $100,000 prize in New York City this April.