CHRIS WOEBKEN

  WORKS    TEACHING    ABOUT

Mark
Design in the Posthuman Age - SS22, RISD GD
co-taught with Anastasiia Raina




Making Kin With Biomaterials - FA21, Tech Elective, Columbia GSAPP

The realm of the tiny and invisible has actively been ignored within modern societies, despite or exactly because modern science found out more and more about our mutual relations and dependencies with microorganisms, fungi, and other non-human species. Only recently, this situation has started to change. New scientific, computational, philosophical, and evolutionary approaches emphasize the decisive role of the microbiome in the development and maintenance of complex life-forms. In the pyramid of organic life, microorganisms not only lay the foundation but by far represent the largest part, both in numbers and in volume or weight.

With the dawning of the carbon-based period of modernity and the realization of the environmental costs that are going along with it, biological agents and materials have received a major upgrade in public recognition. Being it for substitution of carbon-based building materials or fuels, being it as a means to clean up the petromodern mess, or being it as the basis for entirely new regimes of nutrition, transport, and living, nowadays’ future scenarios are full of visions for newly envisioned uses of or, rather, collaborations with microorganisms.

This course aims to theoretically and practically investigate and reveal these mutual relationships and multispecies collaborations across all scales. Students will interrogate different approaches of industrial production, conceptualize and materialize objects that propose alternative approaches and situate these artifacts within the speculative frameworks and future developments. We will be designing prototypes for interfacing with biological systems in the form of grown materials, bioreactors, sampling instruments, or bio-receptive substrates. Students will have the chance to present work-in-progress prototypes and scenarios in a public forum at our partner and project space 1014 within the framework of a series of workshops to embody and imagine life in a post-carbon society.


Scenes from the sessions at 1014 and collages by Adeline Chum, Jules Kleitman, Aditi Mangesh Shetye, 2021


Critical Thinking & Experimental Processes - FA19 at RISD MID
Grad studio taught by Paolo Cardini, Agi Haines, Chris Woebken

In this course, we will focus on areas of the design discipline that treat design not as a vocational tool for developing products that solve problems, but rather as a practice of critical inquiry. What does this mean? Historically, Industrial Design has been tightly coupled with industry and commerce, with designers designing functional products that improves people's lives, and more importantly, sells! Sustainable design, social design and various other approaches within design have tried to make the products of Industrial Design less harmful. However, design as critical inquiry is different from all these approaches, in that it attempts to use design to question and reveal the underlying assumptions of the systems in which we operate as designers, but also as citizens, humans, animals. This approach to design is variously known as critical design, speculative design, discursive design. Interestingly, Critical Design itself has been critiqued as being not sufficiently radical. Industrial Design has also traditionally been seen and presented itself as a somewhat logical and goal-driven process of problem-solving. We will also be turning this aspect of traditional design on its head, and use design as an experimental process, non-goal driven, open-ended yet iterative. We can refer to this as Experimental Design. The word ‘experimental’ is tricky, however, because it can refer to two quite different, almost opposite things: tightly controlled experiments as conducted in the sciences, or experimental inspiration-seeking activity in the fine arts. In this course, we will tend toward the latter meaning.

So: Experimentation and Critical Inquiry are the two fundamental elements of this studio class. We will learn about these approaches in design, but more importantly, through their research and making, students will be invited to discover the unknown and ask relevant and pointed questions.
Yuqing Ma - Slow Food



Danlei Huang - Post Plastic Age


WenYu Du - Exit Plan


Cross-Species Test Sites - SS19 & FA19 at Columbia GSAPP
Building Science & Technology Elective
Taught by Chris Woebken

This course investigates the complex relationships between humans and non-human urban inhabitants. Students study urban animal wildlife, indicator species, and microbial communities and work with biologists and ecologists to identify new potentials in designing for biological systems. Through the process of fabricating, situating and testing prototypes, we aim to create a reflective space for deeply considering the details of these new interactions, and to discover unforeseen opportunities, twists and challenges. Project outcomes are physical devices in the form of multispecies interfaces, bio-receptive materials, and infrastructure modifications that propose new multispecies collaborations across all scales. 

Full Syllabus


Jules Kleitmann | FA19


Xin Qin | Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, FA19

Michael Alexander Mc Dowell | Seahorse Exchange, SS19


Matteo Cordera - Ratelier, SS19

Julia Pyszkowski - Soilcell3000, SS19



Michael Lu - Raptor Vending Machine, SS19



Sadie Dempsey, Recolonizing, SS19



Micro-Environment Exploration Lab - SS18 at NYU  Tandon - IDM
Taught by Elizabeth Hénaff and Chris Woebken

Metagenomics is the field of research which investigates the microbial component of our environment. It is a rapidly growing field, enabled by the recent decrease in cost and increase in throughput of DNA sequencing technology. We can now easily measure the microbial component of our environment and have the opportunity to incorporate this new microbial metric into the design of our built environments and products. In this class we will cover a basic understanding of the state of current research in environmental microbiomes. Students will get hands-on experience in which they will learn the computational methods to analyze genomic data. We will design physical devices to interact with this invisible component of our environment, either in form of sampling instruments, bioreactors or bio receptive substrates that propose new symbiotic relationships with the microbial environment.

Full Syllabus


The projects presented at Biodesign Challenge: https://biodesignchallenge.org/nyu-idm

Weather Worlds at UNFCCC COP24 - Fall 18 at NYU ITP/IMA
Taught by Karolina Sobecka and Chris Woebken

Weather Worlds is a studio course that explores the role that design plays in public engagement on climate disruption. In this outcome-focused course the students will design pop-up public engagement interventions for the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP24), which will take place in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland. The designs will be created in consultation with Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. The aim is to create blueprints for design approaches that can be adapted and replayed in different contexts and settings to create interventions sensitive to and inclusive of local challenges and participation. A handoff that includes a local re-interpretation of the design is a key aspect of this approach.

In this semester’s Weather Worlds studio we will focus on the impacts of climate change on food systems and vice versa - on the impact of our food systems on climate. We will design interventions through which participants confront how by simply eating they connect to supply chains, networks, and institutions that extend well beyond their families, communities or countries. Specifically the interventions will connect the international COP conference participants with the local polish food-system-and-climate-impact intersections. Understanding the paths that the carbon we ingest takes through the myriad material configurations and their sociotechnical orderings exposes the fundamental interconnections between the matter of our bodies, carbon emissions impacts on climate, and the agricultural, infrastructural, consumption, valuation and information systems that we have put in place. It further lets us consider what can be done about it, from local context-specific issues to global policy.

The partnership with the humanitarian sector will broaden and amplify the impact of this project, facilitating and developing engagements worldwide. This course produces a Weather Worlds platform that will investigate forms of experimental pedagogy, communication, and participation in engaging the public and multiple stakeholders on issues linked to climate disruption.

Full Syllabus



Camera Hacking - Night school, 2011

On November 30, 2011 Media artist Kyle McDonald and speculative designer Chris Woebken ran a Night school at Studio-x demonstrating a series of experiments using time-lapse, photo traps, and computer face-detection to reveal hidden perspectives, invisible behaviors, and unexpected interactions in the city.



Further teaching activities:
Interdisciplinary Team Project’, Adjunct Faculty, 17-week, Emerging Media Technology, FA 20, CUNY Citytech
’Data Futures’, Adjunct Faculty, Parsons, MFADT, Fall 19, 14-week class
Graduate Thesis Research’, Adjunct Faculty, RISD Industrial Design, Providence, US, Fall 2018
Thesis Advisor, Aaron Simmons, RISD ID, Providence, US, Spring 2018 
'Designing with Biology', Summer School, CIID, San Jose, CR, 2018
'Testing Hypotheticals', Queens Museum, 2-week workshop, NYC, US, 2018 (documentation)
Visiting critic in the graduate thesis studio, (remote tutoring), RISD ID, Providence, US, Fall 2017
'Weather Worlds' co-taught with Karolina Sobecka, 14-week class, SVA Design (IXD) BFA, NYC, US, Fall 2017 (documentation)
'Designing Hypotheticals', month long intensive, School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe, Berlin, DE, 2017 (documentation)
'Design Kids | Future Prototype', workshop, Cooper Hewitt, NYC, US, 2017
'Workshopping workshops', RISD ID, Providence, US, 2017
'Specials Programs Think Tank', week long intensive, CCA, San Francisco, US, 2017 (documentation)
'Panel for Future Special Programmes of the European Union', week long intensive, MCAST, Malta, MT, 2017 (documentation)
'Design Futures Workshop', Genspace, NYC, US, 2017 (documentation)
'Testing Tomorrows', 7-week class, NYU ITP, NYC, US, 2016 (documentation)
Original Mind Scholar, year long residency, Dalton School, NYC, US, 2016-2017
'Welcome to the Futures', workshop, SVA Products of Design, NYC, US, 2016 (documentation)
'Alternative Unknowns' workshop at 'Infrastructure Space', LafargeHolcim Forum, Detroit, US, 2016 (documentation)
'Adventuring Trailhead', lecturer, IDEO, San Francisco, US, 2016
'Modeling Futures', 5-week course, Pioneer Works, NYC, US, 2016 (documentation)
'Hybrid Urbanism', (remote tutoring), Strelka Institute, Moscow, RU, 2016
'Testing Tomorrows', week long, NYU ITP, NYC, US, 2015 (documentation)
Graduate thesis studio, Adjunct Faculty, RISD ID, Providence, US, 2015
'Urban Data Research Center' workshop, Strelka Institute, Moscow, 2015 (documentation)
'Speculative Design and Strategic Planning' workshop, Strelka Institute, Moscow, 2015
'1-888-FUTURES' workshop, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, 2015 (documentation)
Cyborg workshop with the Biomechanics and Movement Science (BIOMS) course, UD, Newark, 2015 (documentation)
Visiting Critic, Design Fiction Group, MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, 2015
Visiting Artist, NCAR/CU Boulder, CO, US, 2015 (documentation)
Extrapolation Factory workshop, Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons, NYC, US, 2015
'Craigslist for Barter' workshop, SVA Products of Design, NYC, US, 2015 (documentation)
Extrapolation Factory workshop, Weimar, Bauhaus University, DE, 2014
'Telstar Shopping Network' intensive, Z33, Leuven, BE, 2014 (documentation)
'Biotechnominimarket' design intensive, RCA, Design Interactions, London, UK, 2014 (documentation)
'Futurematic - Waves of Tomorrow' workshop, NYU ITP, NYC, US, 2014 (documentation)
'Wild Posting Futures BBQ' workshop, Eyebeam, NYC, US, 2014 (documentation)
'Futurematic' workshop, OCAD University Strategic Foresight and Innovation, Toronto, CA, 2014 (documentation)
'Oficina de patentes', intensive at Laboratorio para la Ciudad, Mexico City, MX, 2014 (documentation)
Visiting Critic, Liam Young’s studio, Princeton University School of Architecture, Princeton, US, 2014
'The Society for Speculative Rocketry', 2-week workshop, Eyebeam, NYC, 2014 (documentation)
Thesis Advisor, Alex Todaro, SVA IDX MA, NYC, US, 2014
Extrapolation Factory workshop, GSAPP Studio-X, NYC, US, 2013 (documentation)
Film workshop, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, US, 2013 (documentation)
Thesis Advisor, Namwoo Bae, RISD Digital+Media, Providence, US, 2013
Visiting Critic, Geoff Manaugh & Nicola Twilley’s studio, GSAPP, NYC, US, 2013
Film workshop, RISD Digital + Media, Providence, US, 2013
'Camera Hacking Nightschool', GSAPP Studio-X, NYC, US, 2012  (documentation)
Thesis Advisor, Kyung Hoon Hyun, RISD ID, Providence, US, 2012
Film workshop, RISD Digital + Media, Providence, US, 2012
Intensive, Industrial Design, Syracuse University, US, 2012
Conflux, workshop, NYC, US, 2012
Visiting Critic, David Benjamin's class, Pratt, NYC, US, 2011
'Invisible Behaviors', workshop, NYU ITP, NYC, US, 2011
'Futurelabcamp', organized a series of biotech un-conferences, NYC & Cambridge, US, 2011 (documentation)