More than 10 years ago, cell and molecular biologist Peter Lloyd Jones, PhD, associate dean for emergent design and creative technology in medicine and founder and executive director of MEDstudio@JEFF at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, and architect Jenny Sabin began a collaboration to define new methods and digital tools to enhance cross-disciplinary research and discovery through the lenses of biomedical science and design.
“LabStudio: Design Research between Architecture and Biology,” the new book co-authored by Jones and Sabin, associate professor at Cornell University, is based on their unique collaborative work. It introduces the concept of a laboratory within a studio in which funded research and transdisciplinary participants achieve radical advances in science, design, medicine and applied architecture practice.
“LabStudio should be relevant to anyone involved in or contemplating collaboration in a post-disciplinary era,” Jones said. “Based on our experience, the rules are fairly simple but not necessarily easy– start off slowly, read a great deal, have patience and, above all, respect one another and each other’s professions as equals.”
Jones, whose work in 3-D architectural biology has uncovered fundamental mechanisms in embryonic development and human disease, including breast cancer, founded MEDstudio@JEFF in 2013 as a catalyst and educational unit to promote health, wellness and dignity, serving both health professionals and the public. His post-disciplinary research actively seeks and finds new solutions to complex problems in medicine and design by forging extreme collaborations between seemingly unrelated fields, including stem cell biology, biocomputation, fashion, smart textiles, aerospace and architecture.
“Overall, the mission of LabStudio is to produce new modes of thinking, working and creating in design, medicine and the sciences,” said Sabin, the Arthur L. and Isabel B. Weisenberger Associate Professor of Architecture and director of graduate studies at Cornell Architecture Art Planning.
Jones and Sabin “contribute to a profound redefinition of the relation between architectural design and science,” said Antoine Picon, the G. Ware Travelstead Professor of the history of architecture and technology and director of research at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. “Feeding extensively on contemporary biological research, their approach is inseparable from a profound evolution of our vision of life.”
One of the book’s many contributors is Mark L. Tykocinski, MD, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs at Thomas Jefferson University and the Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean, Sidney Kimmel Medical College. In the chapter “RE(IN)FORM(ULAT)ING Health Care via Medicine + Creativity,” Tykocinski notes the value of MEDstudio in “shaping environments [and] cultivating creativity through design,” and further addresses the need for medical education to incorporate other “Medicine Plus” initiatives including health policy, computation science and entrepreneurship, the latter aimed at “the people who will create value through medical discovery, translating discovery into the marketplace.”
Both the LabStudio and MEDstudio approaches have particular resonance for the new Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), which is focused on creating value for students, faculty, industry and society by fostering transdisciplinary collaborations to develop new solutions and innovations across multiple fields.
“This union allows us to reformulate how artists, designers, clinicians and scientists work together and provides us with an opportunity to create new languages between disparate fields,” Jones said. “If we curate it carefully, we should be able to create innovative outputs, whether educational, product or process, with the overarching aim of improving humanity.”