Aguahoja I won design project of the year at Dezeen Awards 2019 for the "new attributes" of its natural materials

Named design project of the year at Dezeen Awards 2019, Aguahoja I by Mediated Matter Group at MIT shows how materials derived from living organisms could be used in architecture, according to the jury.

Mediated Matter Group, which is part of MIT Media Lab and headed by Neri Oxman, digitally designed and robotically fabricated the structure using materials derived from apples, trees, insect exoskeletons and bones.

The project involved robotically printing a five-metre-tall pavilion out of a biocomposite made of pectin, cellulose, chitosan (a material derived from chitin) and calcium carbonate.

Aguahoja I by Mediated Matter Group has been named design project of the year
Aguahoja I by Mediated Matter Group has been named design project of the year

The judges were impressed by the way the project demonstrated how organic, biodegradable materials could be combined to create objects on an architectural scale.

"The material itself is a living material," said Dezeen Awards judge Nelly Ben Hayoun. "It sweats, it grows, it expands, it smells, so it's coming with all of these new attributes that you would not find in a piece of design that would usually be glossy or shiny."

Aguahoja is a robotically fabricated structure

According to Hayoun, the project ignited intense discussion between the design master jury, which also included Philippe Starck, Yinka Ilori, Front's Sofia Lagerkvist, Aric Chen and Atelier NL's Lonny van Ryswyck.

"It kind of challenged all of the members of the jury in what we consider being a piece of design," said Hayoun.

"We've seen a lot of projects using biomaterial, but specifically what excited us in this project is the fact that they managed to scale it up," she continued. "And it is promising about what can be done with it in architecture and so forth."

Part of MIT Media Lab, Mediated Matter Group attempts to apply the intrinsic intelligence of natural ecologies to the way that we design and fabricate the built environment.

"We look forward to seeing what is going to come out from the Mediated Matter Group in the next five to ten years and how they are going to use that particular material moving forward," concluded Hayoun in this movie produced by Dezeen.

Aguahoja I pavilion by MIT Media Lab
The structure is composed of pectin, cellulose, calcium carbonate and chitosan

The Aguahoja project, which means "water-leaf," explores how sustainable composite materials extracted from living plants and animals could eventually be used at an architectural scale. The biocomposite structure is soluble, meaning the raw materials can be separated and safely biodegraded by applying water.

The leaf-like structure was also named sustainable design of the year at the Dezeen Awards party held at Ennismore Sessions House in London on 30 October.

At the party, A Room for Archaeologists and Kids by Studio Tom Emerson and Taller 5 received the award for architecture project of the year and Piazza Dell'Ufficio by Branch Studio Architects was named interior project of the year.