Design +
Insect Research

This is an area of research, provocation and speculation centered on the relationship between design and insects. Structures, products and services are derived from insects used in biotechnology, food/product production and as pets.

JIDA exhibition: INSECTARIUM
Tokyo
13 Dec 2016 - 20 Dec 2016

JIDA Next Eco Design 2016
Shinjuku Park Tower, 1F, Gallery 3, Tokyo
http://marucan.jp/index.html

The design and research work of Kaltenbach lab and the design studio, actionfindcopypaste were featured in this group exhibition. This exhibition was organized by the Japan Industrial Design Association (JIDA), which Christopher Kaltenbach is a member. The cardboard architecture installation, "INSECTARIUM: design and insect research facility," located on the campus of NSCAD University, as well as a small portion of the actual installation was exhibited.

This iteration of four tubes from INSECTARIUM tested corrugated plastic and sheet acrylic to create the impression of lightness, while having both improved structural performance and durability.

  • INSECTARIUM installation detail by Christopher Kaltenbach/Kaltenbach lab/actionfindcopypaste, JIDA Next Eco Design exhibition, Tokyo. photo:  Taniuchi Takanobu
  • JIDA Next Eco Design exhibition, Tokyo.  photo:  Taniuchi Takanobu
  • INSECTARIUM installation detail by Christopher Kaltenbach/Kaltenbach lab/actionfindcopypaste, JIDA Next Eco Design exhibition, Tokyo
  • INSECTARIUM installation detail by Christopher Kaltenbach/Kaltenbach lab/actionfindcopypaste, JIDA Next Eco Design exhibition, Tokyo
  • INSECTARIUM installation detail by Christopher Kaltenbach/Kaltenbach lab/actionfindcopypaste, JIDA Next Eco Design exhibition, Tokyo
  • JIDA Next Eco Design exhibition, Tokyo.  photo:  Taniuchi Takanobu
INSECTARIUM: design + insect research lab
NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada
12 September 2016

This is a research facility located on the campus of NSCAD University. It will officially begin operation in the autumn of 2017. It is a semi-permanent, architecture installation, constructed of 384 hexagonal cardboard tubes stacked in a 9 square meter room. It is a structure that defines two separate spaces, the INSECTARIUM and a redefined office space. Its form has been developed through the examination of the micron level structural characteristics of chitin, a biopolymer found in the exoskeletons and wings of many insects. Furthermore, the hexagonal form has been developed to house an insect terrarium in each of the individual cardboard tubes.

The location of this installation is on the second floor of a renovated 19th century building and is situated directly off a stair landing in the building’s main stairwell. Besides an existing door in the office, a painted over window (927mm x 1791mm) was located at one end of the room. It was through this large opening that a new access point to the room was identified and eventually a separate entrance created for INSECTARIUM.

The interest in chitin lies in how its long chitin-protein fibers are organized in an almost parallel pattern within a single layer and the way those layers are then stacked on top of one another, “rotated by a constant angle to produce a helicoidal arrangement;” this gives the insect’s outer layer of tissue its overall strength. The structural design for INSECTARIUM sought to translate this micron level structure into a hybrid structural ribs and skinning system using nonstandard cardboard building components.

The hexaganol tubes of the structure were developed to be containers for insect terrariums. It is planned that INSECTARIUM will rear live insects: crickets, silk worms and beetles. Currently, two terrariums are under development, one terrarium fits in the interior perimeter of the tube and the other fits in the hexagonal holes of the struts that support the tubes. Both terrariums require an individually designed chassis tube. This provides a frame for the terrarium to easily slip in and slip out of the structure―like drawer slides in a cabinet. These chassis tubes fit tightly within the structure and can easily be removed, this allows for upgrading the design without affecting the structure. Eventually, the chassis tubes will provide the framework for electrical and HVAC systems that will service the insect habitats.

  • interior view: INSECTARIUM: design + insect research facility, by actionfindcopypaste and Kaltenbach Lab
  • drawing: INSECTARIUM: insect + design research facility, by actionfindcopypaste and Kaltenbach Lab
  • interior view of the reconfigured office: INSECTARIUM: design + insect research facility, by actionfindcopypaste and Kaltenbach Lab
INSECTUM Shop
Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan
19 Mar 2016 - 27 Mar 2016

Christopher Kaltenbach's activities include the development of a shop dedicated to insect based products and the promotion of advance commercial uses of them. In March 2016, the shop’s first incarnation as a pop-up shop opened in Asakusa, Tokyo, there people sampled insect food and played with beetles. Information posters were on display presenting new concepts about insects, e.g. biotechnology, biomimicry, entomophagy, etc. Furthermore, Japanese PhD entomology students were invited to speak on their research and answer questions from the public. Overall, the pop-up shop provided a platform to chat with people about a future with insects and about the potential of a shop in Japan dedicated to all things new, beautiful and delicious about insects. The INSECTUM pop-up shop will open again in Tokyo in the spring of 2017.

  • INSECTUM PopUp Shop by Kaltenbach Lab, Tokyo
book: INSECTUM, Speculative Design Interventions
publisher: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD University) ISBN:9780919616523 0919616526
15 December 2015

In December 2015 NSCAD University published the book “Insectum.” This book introduces Kaltenbach’s particular design research method through the examination of seventeen test case projects created by students who took part in his undergraduate design studio course at NSCAD University. These projects demonstrate a range of design outcomes based on using advanced scientific research that identifies useful chemicals found in insects for the purpose of creating new material, energy and pharmacological compounds, to name a few.

  • book cover: INSECTUM: speculative design interventions, interdisciplinary design at NSCAD University Kaltenbach
  • pages 006–007: IINSECTUM: speculative design interventions, interdisciplinary design at NSCAD University Kaltenbach
  • data visualization:
  • project introduction pages:
  • project overview pages:
PhD / in progress
01 July 2014 - 01 July 2018

Architecture Research Stream:
Expanded Field
RMIT University
School of Architecture and Design
Melbourne, Australia

This PhD explores the relationships between insects and people as it pertains to the design of large and small artificial habitats. It is my hunch that through a different appreciation of insects, brought about by a better understanding of how we perceive them and manage our proximity to them, that design strategies for alternative engagements with nature and environmentalism can be created.

One strategy envisions insect terrariums and architectural installations that house terrariums for purposes that include biotechnology and food/product production, as well as pets. These objects and structures seek to define a new public multimodal interface, developed through the creation an insect inspired aesthetic and the performance of a regimes of care.

The research is positioned in Japan as it has rich cultural precedents associated with insects, this provides critical insight into ways of enhancing and expanding our relationship to these animals.

  • RMIT PRS Poster, October 2015
INSECTUM / 2014

Course: Design Studio 3 / Interdisciplinary Design Studio / DSGN 3021
NSCAD University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Instructors: Christopher Kaltenbach with Christopher Majka (biology research consultant) and Naryn Davar (Rhino software and 3D printing consultant)

//Course portfolio book available featuring speculative design projects by seventeen students with essays by Christopher Kaltenbach, Christopher Majka and Afterword by Dr. Rudi Meyer//

As global demand on diminishing agricultural resources increases, the need to find ways to reduce the burden on plant cultivation becomes evermore important. The investigation into insects as a chemical and food source provides one such avenue. From rethinking the materiality of products, active ingredients in pharmaceuticals, and energy generation, to identifying alternative sources of edible protein, many industries across the globe have the potential to benefit from these types of arthropod based applications.

There are four areas where insects can be a source of design ideation: bioengineering, biomimicry, entomophagy and habitat construction; this course focuses on bioengineering.

In this semester-long project, each student begins by modeling a hypothetical system of elements and interconnections situated on raising and processing insects in a controlled environment in a particular country, this includes extracting a chemical by-product and processing that chemical for the purpose of applying it to a commercial application. Within that system of production, students investigate where there are opportunities for design, which can be created in and by the system, have a particular function within the system or, as integral to the system, actually effect change to it.

  • INSECTUM / NSCAD / Kaltenbach / 2014 / Course Brief
  • INSECTUM: book cover
  • INSECTUM / NSCAD / Kaltenbach / 2014 / K. Robb sketchbook
  • INSECTUM / NSCAD / Kaltenbach / 2014 / S. Panchaud data visualization
SEED / 2013

Course: Design Studio 3 / Interdisciplinary Design Studio / DSGN 3021
NSCAD University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

“Population and consumption growth, increasing competition for resources, environmental sustainability and the effects of climate change will all have significant bearing on how we farm. More than ever, science and innovation are needed to develop new products and practices that are critical to the competitiveness of Canada's agriculture and food sector which helps drive our economy.”
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Science and Innovation

This quote, taken from the Government of Canada’s website, indicates how events around the globe are impacting on countries and how, in this case, Canada is beginning to invest in new agricultural practices. In addition, in many parts of the globe there is growing interest in designers and artists engaging and challenging the understandings of agriculture.

To understand where design can engage with agriculture, one might begin with the actual (dormant) organism — the seed — from which food production and biotechnology originates. As an important domain for research and development, where can design position itself? The aim of this design studio is to examine this question.

Students have been asked to investigate a particular plant and look beyond its form and species to identify its hidden potential within the fields of engineering, technology, medicine, etc. This has provided a new understanding of materiality through particular techniques of transformation and/or application, such as industrial hemp used in the building of automobiles or potatoes that deliver vaccines.

In this semester-long project students create a hypothetical context for agricultural production—based on specifics found in published research—for the use of a seed’s product or by-product. From this, a scenario is developed around that seed: how it is grown and used in a particular country for the use in a specific transformation of agriculture, be it food, fuel, building material, etc. The student is then responsible for articulating the rationale for the seed to be grown and used in that country, be it economic, social or political.

  •  SEED course / DSGN3021 / NSCAD University / Interdisciplinary Design / Kaltenbach
  • Wesley Norris (BDes 2015) / SEED course / DSGN3021 / NSCAD University / Interdisciplinary Design / Kaltenbach
SEED / 2011

Course: Design Studio 3 / Interdisciplinary Design Studio / DSGN 3021
NSCAD University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

“Population and consumption growth, increasing competition for resources, environmental sustainability and the effects of climate change will all have significant bearing on how we farm. More than ever, science and innovation are needed to develop new products and practices that are critical to the competitiveness of Canada's agriculture and food sector which helps drive our economy.”
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada: Science and Innovation

This quote, taken from the Government of Canada’s website, indicates how events around the globe are impacting on countries and how, in this case, Canada is beginning to invest in new agricultural practices. In addition, in many parts of the globe there is growing interest in designers and artists engaging and challenging the understandings of agriculture.

To understand where design can engage with agriculture, one might begin with the actual (dormant) organism — the seed — from which food production and biotechnology originates. As an important domain for research and development, where can design position itself? The aim of this design studio is to examine this question.

Students have been asked to investigate a particular plant and look beyond its form and species to identify its hidden potential within the fields of engineering, technology, medicine, etc. This has provided a new understanding of materiality through particular techniques of transformation and/or application, such as industrial hemp used in the building of automobiles or potatoes that deliver vaccines.

In this semester-long project students create a hypothetical context for agricultural production—based on specifics found in published research—for the use of a seed’s product or by-product. From this, a scenario is developed around that seed: how it is grown and used in a particular country for the use in a specific transformation of agriculture, be it food, fuel, building material, etc. The student is then responsible for articulating the rationale for the seed to be grown and used in that country, be it economic, social or political.

  • SEED course 2011 / Design Studio 3 / Interdisciplinary Design Studio / DSGN 3021 /NSCAD University / Christopher Kaltenbach
  • SEED course 2011 / Design Studio 3 / Interdisciplinary Design Studio / DSGN 3021 /NSCAD University / Christopher Kaltenbach