Orkan Telhan


Country of origin





Orkan Telhan is interdisciplinary artist, designer and researcher whose investigations focus on the design of interrogative objects, interfaces, and media, engaging with critical issues in social, cultural, and environmental responsibility.

BiographyOrkan Telhan Sandalwood

Orkan Telhan is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts - Emerging Design Practices at University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. Telhan is working towards his PhD in Design and Computation at MIT School of Architecture and Planning. He was part of the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Laboratory. He studied Media Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo and theories of media and representation, visual studies and graphic design at Bilkent University, Ankara. Telhan's individual and collaborative work has been exhibited in a number of venues including Ars Electronica, ISEA, LABoral, Archilab, Architectural Association, Architectural League/ NYC, and the MIT Museum.

Research Project: Biosynthesis and the Futures of Sandalwood

Glowing plants, drug-delivering artificial cells, smell-changing bacteria, propelling mouse tissues… Today, new kinds of biological designs are increasingly gaining public awareness and shifting biological imagination towards new horizons. Next to scientists and engineers, do-it-yourself biologists are claiming crucial roles as the hackers, artists, designers, cultural theorists, and entrepreneurs of the biophilic era. As Synthetic Biology is becoming the go-to-discipline to those who are interested in the biochemical design space, engineering principles become the driving force behind designed biologies.

But what do we mean by “design” when we talk about biological design?

During his residency, Telhan pursued a series of design experiments using living organisms that explore the future of the biologically designable. A case study on Sandalwood specifically looked at the potential of how a tree and its products will socially, culturally, economically, and biologically evolve through new advances in Synthetic Biology and techniques of Biosynthesis that transform living things into bio-cultural artifacts.