Material Health: Design Frontiers

November 14 – 15, 2019 The New School, New York NY

Conference Documentation

Winona LaDuke, Keynote, Environmentalist, Political & Climate Activist (47 minutes)

Healthy Materials Lab, Welcome (6 minutes)

Maya Halden, Climate Activist (14 minutes)

Air & Toxicity (78 minutes)

Laura Vanderberg, Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director, University of Massachusetts

Aaron Dorf, Director and Senior Architect, Snøhetta

Ginger Krieg, Dosier Co-Founder and CEO, BioMASON

Moderator: Jonsara Ruth, Design Director, Healthy Materials Lab

Carbon (72 minutes)

Andrea Lipps, Associate Curator of Contemporary Design, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

Charlotte McCurdy, Global Security Fellow & Interdisciplinary Designer

Julia Lohmann, Professor of Contemporary Design, Aalto University & Founder, Department of Seaweed e.V.

Moderator: John Bruce Director, MFA Transdisciplinary Design and Assistant Professor, Design Strategies, Parsons School of Design

Equity (81 minutes)

Maida Galvez Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine, Public Health and Pediatrics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Samantha Josaphat, Architect and Founder, Studio 397 Architecture

Ana Baptista, Chair of Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management Program, The New School

Moderator: Alison Mears, Director, Healthy Materials Lab

Waste & Circular Economies (73 minutes)

Kate Daly, Executive Director, Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners

Lasse Lind, Architect, Partner, Head of Consulting, GXN

Seetal Solanki, Founder and Director, Ma-tt-er

Moderator: Jen Van Der Meer Assistant Professor, Strategic Design & Management, Parsons School of Design

Ecosystems (80 minutes)

Franca Trubiano, Associate Professor in Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Martha Lewis, Senior Architect & Head of Materials, Henning Larsen Architects A/S

Anthony Neron, Founder of DuChanvre, and Plasterer

Moderator: Amanda Kaminsky Founder, Building Product Ecosystems LLC


The New School
66 W 12th Street, Auditorium
New York, NY 10011

Symposium Description

As architects and designers, we often design without considering the complex environmental implications of our important decisions. An unwillingness to understand the consequences of all of our actions is having a profound impact on the planet’s ecosystem and on human health. Design decisions affect the construction and manufacturing industries and have an adverse impact on the planet and on our health. We must do things differently. We need to identify viable alternatives to our current carbon-intensive construction products and practices.

We are the first generation to spend approximately 90% of our time indoors. Building materials, furniture, and products in places where people live, work and play dictate what we breathe, absorb, and ingest. Evidence shows that indoor air may be three to five times more contaminated than outdoor air and exposure is even more likely for those living in substandard housing. Risks increase for pregnant mothers, children, and seniors whose bodies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals.

These issues are not confined to living indoors. Low-quality building materials also have adverse health impacts on people and the environment during their processing, manufacturing, and all stages of a product’s life cycle.

Who designs the future? Who shapes it? Who teaches it? How does an understanding of these fundamental issues change the way we teach and launch the next generation of architects and interior designers for this new era? What does the future look like if we make radical changes now? What are the problems we will have to confront if we don’t make a change?


  • Alison Mears, Parsons Healthy Materials Lab
  • Jonsara Ruth, Parsons Healthy Materials Lab
↑  Glossary