Synthetic Aesthetics Goes Live!


Please join us as we celebrate the publication of our book,Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology's Designs on Nature at the at the V&A Friday Late: Synthetic Aesthetics at London's Victoria and Albert Museum on Friday 25 April, 18:30 to 22:00.

Can we design life itself? The emerging field of synthetic biology crosses the boundary between science and design to manipulate the stuff of life. These new designers use life as a programmable material, creating new organisms with radical applications from materials to machines. Friday Late turns the V&A into a living laboratory, bringing science and design together for one night of events, workshops and installations, each exploring our biological future.

The evening will feature the book launch of 'Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology's Designs on Nature', published by The MIT Press.

FRIDAY 25 APRIL, 18.30-22.00
For full information, click here.


Synthetic Aesthetics: Investigating Synthetic Biology's Designs on Nature.
by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Jane Calvert, Pablo Schyfter, Alistair Elfick and Drew Endy.
Published by The MIT Press, April 2014

Synthetic biology redesigns the stuff of life. For synthetic biologists, living matter is programmable material. Design is central, as scientists and engineers in search of carbon-neutral fuels, sustainable manufacturing techniques, and innovative drugs, aim to redesign existing organisms and even construct completely novel life forms. In 2012 the British government prioritised synthetic biology as one of eight fields of science and technology in which “the UK could lead the world”.

Some synthetic biologists see themselves as designers, inventing new products and applications. But what role should designers themselves play in this rapidly developing field and how can design values shape our biological future? 

In this book, synthetic biologists, artists, designers, and social scientists investigate synthetic biology and design. After chapters that introduce the science and set the terms of the discussion, the book follows six boundary-crossing collaborations between artists and designers and synthetic biologists from around the world, helping us understand what it might mean to ‘design nature.’ These collaborations have resulted in biological computers that calculate form; speculative packaging that builds its own contents; algae that feeds on circuit boards; and a sampling of human cheeses. They raise questions about the scientific process, our relationship to designed matter, unintended consequences and the ownership of life.

Synthetic biology is driven by its potential; some of these projects are fictions, beyond the current capabilities of the technology. Yet even as fictions, they help illuminate, question, and even shape the future of the field.


Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is a London-based artist, designer, and writer. Jane Calvert and Pablo Schyfter are social scientists based in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Alistair Elfick is Codirector of the SynthSys Centre at the University of Edinburgh. Drew Endy is a  bioengineer at Stanford University and President of the BioBricks Foundation.


Friday Late: Synthetic Aesthetics
Friday Late: Synthetic Aesthetics
Synthetic Aesthetics - Book Cover
Synthetic Aesthetics - Book Cover