Profile picture of Mary Polites

Mary Polites

Assistant Professor
Fabrication & Living Systems
Office: 261 Onyx Bridge
Research Interests: Computation, Digital Fabrication, Material Systems, Living Systems
B.Arch at the New Jersey Institute of Technology
M.Arch at the Architectural Association (UK) 

Mary's research explores the potential of digitally fabricated adaptive infrastructures to support the growth of natural systems within the context of architecture and indoor spaces. Her work ecognizes the importance of living systems in our life through food production, improvement of air quality, and influence on mental health. Rather than seeing nature as a decorative artifact, this work proposes system-based design solutions that act as infrastructure necessary for living systems to integrate into our built environment.

Mary Polites is an educator, architect, and researcher focusing on the integration of architectural design and ecological systems. She is co-director of MAPS (Methods for the Architecture of Patterns and Systems), a design collective specializing in developing innovative design solutions for human and natural systems at all scales. Mary has extensive international experience leading studios, lectures, and seminars related to computational tools and environmental design. Her book “The Rise of Biodesign” analyzes contemporary methodologies developed by Chinese top research institutions to innovate from nature in design.


The Rise of Biodesign

This book was edited by MAPS director Mary Polites in 2019 as a result of three years of research and collaboration with experts and institutions focusing on nature-inspired design in China.  It aims to serve as an introduction to the umbrella term of bioinspired design, and explain the similarities and dissimilarities between its different specializations, from biomimetics to biomimicry. Bioinspiration is a broad field that encompasses many facets of biology, engineering and design. The research and development of materials, systems and techniques based on natural phenomena is considered one of the main contributors for innovation in applied sciences, and a critical driver for future advances in sustainability. Bio labs from some of the top universities in China were invited to exhibit their work for this book, namely the Key Laboratory of Bionic Engineering from Jilin University, the Key Laboratory of Bioinspired Smart Interfacial Science and Technology from Beihang University, the Dynamic Technology Lab for Bionic Materials and Structures from Donghua University, and the Biomimetic Design Lab (BiDL), from Tongji University.


New Ruralism - AAVS Xixinan 2017

Within the context of China’s urbanization, the residual status of Rural China is the theme of AAVS Xixinan. Hosted in an exceptionally beautiful heritage village, Xixinan, located near the Huangshan Mountains in Anhui Province, China, this experiment shuns nostalgia, sentimentality and the tendency to lament the perceived loss of the rural. The propensity to retreat from urbanization, industrialisation and globalisation, endeavouring the resuscitation of an absent past no longer fully nor ubiquitously present. This 9-day workshop takes on the urgency of issues within an increasingly Urban China, which effect the entire country as much as the whole world: Migration, social change, inequity; food and energy supply; agriculture, industry and habitation; and, ecological resilience and sustainability. As such, the verdict for culpability for the causes of the complex contemporary status of the rural does not point towards the technological apparatus of urbanization. In AAVS Xixinan, advanced sensing, simulation, data processing and design technologies will serve merely the agency with which to propose innovative alternatives to longstanding global problematics.