Emma van der Leest
Emma van der Leest is a biodesigner and the co-founder of BlueCity Lab, an experimental and prototyping laboratory in the former Tropicana waterpark in Rotterdam. She designs biomaterials from waste streams and her work is an example of successful cooperation between design and science.
Microorganisms are the basic material of biodesign, just like paint is the basic material of an artist. In an effort to produce sustainable materials for the fashion industry, Emma has developed a number of different working materials. Her goal is to lower the threshold for anyone interested in working with microorganisms and waste streams in the development of new materials.
She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in product design (honours & cum laude) from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Form Follows Organism: The Biological Computer is the title of her research and book on biodesign and the shifting role of a designer working collaboratively with scientists.
As a biodesigner, Emma collaborates with different disciplines, including scientists, physicists, artists and designers. Biodesign, which is based on the principles of biofabrication, is a field that emerged out of regenerative medicine technologies. Biodesign incorporates living organisms e.g. bacteria, fungi, algae or cells into the design process. By discovering materials and processes, that nature has designed but hasn’t patented, we can search for new materials that are grown completely compostable and minimize the use of hazardous resources that cause huge damage to our ecosystem. In 2019 she was nominated with the prestigious Bio Art & Design Award and was selected as ‘Future Builder’ by Dutch Design Foundation.
She creates crossovers with craft, scientific research and new production techniques. Emma is trying to create an environment where boundaries dissolve and where different disciplines can benefit and learn from others.
Emma interned at Biocouture London, the world’s first bio creative consultancy, and is product associate of the annual Biofabricate conference in New York, an initiative from Suzanne Lee, founder of Biocouture. Emma holds a research position in Ecoliteracy at Willem de Kooning Academy besides tutoring. She also develops educational programs and workshops for St. Joost Masters Institue, Central Saint Martins London and Design Academy Eindhoven.
Emma is not only a wonderful and inspiring speaker, but she also makes all the communication around her engagement effortless, clear and pleasurable. We were happy to have her join us at the event!
—Mira Stanic, UNstudio, July 2022
Emma van der Leest at the Dutch Design Week
Emma van der Leest, TEDxRotterdam