‘Bacteria, Fungi, Humans, all part of the same experiment.’
Ward Groutars is a researcher with the Biobased Art and Design research group.
Ward Groutars studied Industrial Design Engineering (BA) at TU Delft, combining different approaches such as user-centred design, digital tools and physical prototyping. During his studies he developed an interest in combining technological innovations with a more artistic approach that led him to do a traineeship at Studio Roosegaarde in 2016. Here he worked on the Glowing Nature project, an interactive installation involving living bioluminescent algae. Working on this project connected with a lifelong fascination for biology opened his eyes for the possibilities of combining living organisms with human technology.
He then proceeded with Design for Interaction (MA) at TU Delft, during which he started to get acquainted with different prototyping techniques involving microbiology and the Material Driven Design method, developed by Elvin Karana in 2015. This culminated into a graduation project done in collaboration with microbiologists from the Aubin-Tam research group. This project was on the development of a material grown by three different species of bacteria. The three different ingredients would then make for a composite material that was lightweight yet incredibly tough. Through this project, various ways of forming such a material were explored as well as the role of a designer in the microbiological laboratory.
After graduation Ward started to work at Avans where he is involved in the Coloured by Flavo project. This research project investigates the structural colour produced by living colonies of Flavobacteria. These bright colours show potential in the development of new types of living paint that could one day replace the petro-chemical dyes we now often use.
His research focusses on understanding the behaviour of these bacteria and how the colours they produce will change in response to different environmental factors. This with the aim of developing a living smart material, able to sense its environment and communicate through vivid colourations.
Bacterial Cellulose is a versatile bio-material grown by bacteria commonly found in kombucha tea. It has various applications in fashion, medicine, and packaging design, and also shows potential as a bio-compatible material.
Coloured by Flavo
This research is about artists, scientists and bacteria co-developing ‘high-performance colour’ as a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based pigments and dyes.
Kim, R., Risseeuw, C., Groutars, E., Karana, E. (2023) Surfacing Livingness in Microbial Displays: A Design Taxonomy for HCI, CHI ’23: Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 2023, Article No.: 156.
Research Group: Biobased Art and Design
The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.Read more
‘Nature is a perfect example of an iterative design process. It is inspiring and full of exciting solutions.’
‘The dynamic relationship between humans and living artefacts will continue to evolve reciprocally with mutual care.’
‘In my work the concept of time is a recurring theme.’
‘It is through the “not-knowing” that a stimulating and caring environment can be created to confidently share vulnerability.’
‘Humans are atmospheric beings, particles, dust, in intimate cycles of exchange, actors with an incredible force.’
‘I’m interested in how we can implement situated learning within design education.’
‘Digital media help me to envision future interactions with living materials’
‘I believe a collaborative and efficient lab can address both educational and research demands.’
‘Exploring and integrating novel perspectives to our everyday through the eyes of fungi.’
‘I am eager to explore how unique qualities of ‘living materials’ can transform the way we think, feel and act.’