Rensselaer – New York

Anna Helen Dyson


Director and Co-Founder, MATERIALAB – An Interdisciplinary Research Consortium that conceives and develops new environmental systems that allow all buildings, especially urban settings, to harness the power of natural systems to provide energy and clean air to occupants.

The goal of MATERIALAB is to bring creative minds working on the cutting edge of emerging technologies in such fields as Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, Optical Engineering, Robotics, and Aeronautical Engineering together with Architects and Artists to catalyze the invention of integrated systems that can leapfrog ahead of existing technologies to bring our built environments that much closer to the intelligent functioning of natural systems.

MATERIALAB is currently developing four different systems in various stages of development that utilize the power of the sun, wind and plant life:

The Integrated Concentrating {IC} Solar Module Window System, which is projected to deliver up to five times as much energy as current building integrated solar power systems; the Building Integrated Hydroponics Panel (BIHP) system, which amplifies the air cleaning capacity of natural plants by 200x, and integrates into standard mechanical building systems to produce ‘closed-loop’ bio-regenerative environments; the Building Integrated WARP {Wind Amplified Rotor Platform} System that uses emerging computer aided manufacturing techniques to aerodynamically amplify and capture wind energy on the surface of buildings; and the Dynamic Folding Envelopes which use post-consumer materials in the generation of lightweight, adaptable folding structures that can be rapidly deployed in permanent structures as well as disaster relief zones.



I have been working as a professor at the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for the past eight years in the development of new energy and material systems for the built environment.

Upon entering the Architectural profession, after graduate studies at the Yale Art and Architecture Building {A&A}, I sought opportunities for experimental environmental research within Architectural practice. After having several excellent experiences in diverse practices in Europe, Canada and the United States, I decided that an academic environment would allow me to pursue the development of new environmental systems with more depth and connection to emerging technologies than is possible within the time and budget constraints of Architectural Practice.

With MATERIALAB, I am intensely involved with the development of information systems and simulation programs that can organize and parametrically integrate the performance criteria from the different scales and disciplines in which these systems are designed, to facilitate the synergistic exchange of information between the various specialists working on them.

At MATERIALAB it is essential for our group that the work is informed by the social/aesthetic/spiritual aspirations of society that, while often reflected in market and industrial forces, are not typically embedded in the criteria for fundamental technology research.

Many of our technologies are conceived with world markets in mind. An example is the IC Solar Module system that is being sponsored by the US Department of Energy and NYSERDA {The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority}. This system will be first demonstrated on the new Center for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Systems, currently being designed by Toshiko Mori, Chair of the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

In developing the applications for this system, we are also working through designs for applications such as a Mobile Aids Clinic for Africa, where the heat and power that we can produce with the system can deliver enough pasteurized water and refrigerated medicines for remote villages.

As Director of MATERIALAB, I am responsible for bringing large teams of scientists,  engineers, artists and architects together, where the expertise of multiple disciplines is necessary, and whereby, the ‘conversation’ between many different specialists, often speaking and understanding different ‘languages’, becomes extremely rewarding.

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