Suddenly, the internet is ablaze talking all about a possible relationship between Brad Pitt (heartthrob, actor, Angelina Jolie’s ex) and Dr. Neri Oxman (accomplished architect, designer, and professor at MIT).
The news first broke in Page Six on April 5: “Brad Pitt spending time with rockstar MIT professor.” Reportedly, “a source exclusively confirms that architecture and design aficionado Pitt recently met accomplished Oxman through an MIT architecture project and they have since become friends. Pitt was referred to Oxman to collaborate on an architectural project he was working on, we’re told.” And, the source told Page Six, “Brad and Neri instantly hit it off because they share the same passion for architecture, design and art. This is best described as a professional friendship.”
People had an exclusive on April 12, asking “Has Brad Pitt Met His Amal Clooney? ‘He Likes Women Who Challenge Him,’ Says Source” where they reported, “Like his buddy George Clooney’s human-rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney, Oxman is a highly educated expert renowned in her field. Described as ‘genius and gorgeous’ by a source, Oxman, 42, could be a similar match for the 54-year-old Pitt as he starts dating again.”
And on April 17, Allie Jones at The Cut wrote, “For the last week and a half, People, ‘Page Six,’ and Us Weekly have been slowly revealing information about Oxman and the nature of her relationship with Pitt. What we know, for sure, so far: She’s an architect and professor at MIT, and she and Pitt have become ‘friends.'” Oooh boy.
If this is Brad Pitt’s new love interest, even if it isn’t, we are here to tell you everything we know about Neri Oxman. Because she is SO MUCH MORE than Brad Pitt’s (maybe) girlfriend. She’s our new idol, and if anything comes of this news, we’re just glad we finally discovered her.
Oxman was born on February 6, 1976 in Haifa, Israel. (She’s an Aquarius!) Her mother, Rivka Oxman, is an architect, researcher, and professor at the Technion Institute in Haifa. Her father, Robert Oxman, who is also a professor there, is an architect and history scholar. Robert was appointed dean there. They are “both well-known figures in the local design scene, namely for their theoretical and computational work in the field.” Haaretz writes, “Her father had the greatest influence on her career, Oxman says today, recalling visits to classes at the Technion.”
As she told CNN in 2012, “I grew up in a modernist house, in a modernist culture. There was a love for modernism everywhere – the furniture, the books, the food, even the cutlery. So I learned very early to appreciate the value of design and the value of architecture.”
I miss Israel mostly when I'm there.
— Neri Oxman (@NeriOxman) June 4, 2016
Oxman served in the Israeli Air Force for three years, then went to medical school at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She said, “I was sort of the rebel in the family.” Her rebellion was going to med school, instead of becoming an architect. She quit med school after two years, but she “doesn’t regret the time she dedicated to studying anatomy and biology because today that knowledge serves her well in her work.” She has also said, “I don’t think I would have made for a good doctor. It was not meant to be, and it took me a long time to realize that.”
After, she studied town planning and architecture at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, where she transferred to the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. She graduated in 2004, and in 2005, she went to MIT. She got her PhD in design computation at MIT, where she coined a term to describe her research.
As she explained,
“When I came to MIT, there were four rubrics: science, art, design, and technology. And as you entered your degree, whether it was a master’s or a PHD, if you were a citizen in one domain, you were a traveler in the other. I started thinking about each rubric’s aim: The role of science is to explain and predict the world around us; engineering, to convert scientific knowledge into utility; design, to convert utility into behavior; and art, to question human behavior and create new perceptions of the world.
In the age of enlightenment, we defined people by their skills and hence, by the domains or disciplines in which they excelled—a scientist, a technologist, a designer, an artist, what have you. But now I think we’re shifting and transcending this age of enlightenment to what I like to think of as an age of entanglement where there is more connection between disciplines and domains.”
Oxman is an architect and designer and currently works at the MIT Media Lab. She’s a leader in digital architecture. Her work is “reinventing the word ‘science,'” according to LAURA DERN.
We’re just going to quote from her website here because honestly a lot of this is way above our heads: “Oxman’s goal is to augment the relationship between built, natural, and biological environments by employing design principles inspired and engineered by Nature, and implementing them in the invention of novel design technologies.” She pioneered the field of Material Ecology, which is where products and buildings are “informed and digitally engineered by, with and for, Nature.” She predicts in the future we will be able to “create entire buildings composed of innovative materials that will be able to move and respond to their environment.”
In 2009, she told Interview Magazine, “A great dream of mine would be to run a design studio full of scientists who think about science as creatively as if they were doing art.” As the interviewer wrote, “Oxman isn’t so taken with architecture and design whose only revolution lies on the surface. ‘Forget about the way it looks,’ she says. ‘Think about how it behaves.'”
She was named one of the “Most Creative People” 2009 by Fast Company, and the description of her is amazing:
In the MIT Media Lab’s basement workshop sits a machine that can slice human bone instantly using a blast of water mixed with garnet dust. It’s Neri Oxman’s favorite. “The laser cutter is very feminine, elegant. The water-jet cutter is very masculine. It cuts anything. To be here at 2 a.m. all by myself–it’s really exciting!” This laughing, chic young woman in a flowing Helmut Lang jacket is an artist, architect, ecologist, computer scientist, and designer who is not just making new things but also coming up with new ways to make things.
Here’s her TED Talk (of course she has a TED Talk):
If you think of someone’s desk as a window into a person’s work, Oxman’s desk shouldn’t surprise you. In 2011, Haaretz wrote, “On Neri Oxman’s desk in the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a place where the future of the world of design, technology and multimedia is being written – is an array of delicate butterfly wings, wasp nests, a sizable pinecone collection and an assortment of human bones.”
And she tells her students at MIT to “approach design with a beginner’s mind.”
You can currently see her work in…
- The Museum of Modern Art (see some online here)
- The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum
- The Center Georges Pompidou
- Museum of Applied Arts (Vienna)
- Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts
- Museum of Science (Boston)
Her art has been exhibited all over the world. She’s recently begun to use 3-D printing to create otherworldly sculptures.
As W Magazine wrote, she is a 3-D print innovator: “She has also transformed shrimp and crab shell bio-matter into natural plastic architectural forms, enlisted silk worms to weave entire pavilions, and even designed a wearable digestive system. Although it was a theoretical creation that would allow astronaut travelers to survive new frontiers like Jupiter, they still resemble the kind of avant–garde fashion you might see on a runway.”
Oxman is a very visible woman in a very male-dominated field. In an interview with W Magazine last year, they asked, “Do you think the issue of male dominance in architecture is unique to the profession?” Her response, “For the same reason we have the Brad Pitts and the George Clooneys, it’s just part of human nature to idolize stereotypes. Such singularities are useful to the common perception of heroism. But it’s not only true for architecture; it’s true in musical composition, for females working in theater, for film directors. This isn’t just a disease of the architecture profession; it’s a phenotype of human culture and how we develop stereotypes and perceptions.”
(Did you note that mention of Brad Pitt? Same.)
Here’s just a few fantastic quotes from Oxman:
On feminism: I loathe categorization, I cherish my independence, and I treasure chivalry. I live just fine with ambiguity TUVM and I welcome a good quarrel about all things designed or grown (except for when men misnomer “confident” with “poised” and “passionate” with “feisty”).
— Neri Oxman (@NeriOxman) March 8, 2018
In InStyle, she explains that she tells “my female students that they don’t need to be afraid to get pregnant while they’re doing their Ph.D.’s. I encourage them to bring their kids to the lab and teach them to play with robots and to program and to celebrate knowledge.”
WORD highlights “womenkind” as typo. Darn MS-DOS. Just looked up new words list for Jan 2018 in OED and found “2ww, n.”, “selfing, adj.”, and “co-parent, v.” Someone please call the THIRD EDITION.
— Neri Oxman (@NeriOxman) March 11, 2018
She’s a super private person, so we know very little. We have this vague tweet…
Vulnerability is a superior form of confidence
— Neri Oxman (@NeriOxman) March 30, 2016
…and the information she was married to Osvaldo Golijov (who had an “incredible influence” on her work, according to Surface Magazine). Golijov is a Jewish Argentinian composer of classical music. According to his official biography, “Osvaldo Golijov grew up in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata, Argentina. Born to a piano teacher mother and physician father, Golijov was raised surrounded by classical chamber music, Jewish liturgical and klezmer music, and the new tango of Astor Piazzolla.” He moved to Israel in 1983, then to the United States in 1986. Unclear when Oxman and Golijov met, but they got married in 2011 (if you feel creepy, here’s their wedding registry).
Brad Pitt !??!
Is she dating Brad Pitt? We have no idea.
They apparently met over a series of 3-D chairs Oxman designed. US Weekly quotes an insider who says, “Brad had only planned on spending two days at MIT last fall, but ended up staying for a week. Neri invited Brad for dinner at her Cambridge apartment, which is very close to the campus. They got romantically involved almost right away.”
(Go read “A Review of the Very Extra Chair Designed by Neri Oxman That Allegedly Seduced Brad Pitt” — good stuff, Slate.)
Pitt’s rep has apparently said they are “just friends.” And, in the same Page Six article that broke the news, they also write “multiple sources also confirm to Page Six that Oxman has recently been dating billionaire activist investor Bill Ackman, 51.” YET, US Weekly’s insider says, “Neri had been dating a very wealthy man and dumped him almost immediately.” A battle of the sources! Whose insider is correct?!
Daily Mail writes, “Reports the two are dating surfaced this month, but the relationship may have been simmering away for as long as six months. Instagram pictures show the two met back in November when the 54-year-old actor an architecture and design aficionado visited the media lab where she works. Sources close to Pitt claim he is ‘absolutely smitten’ with his new squeeze and the ‘their chemistry is off the charts.'”
One Last Thing
She told CNN in 2012 that her life philosophy is based on “a very beautiful expression in the Hebrew language that’s borrowed from spoken Torah… ‘All is predicted and permission is given at any point to change anything,’ I think I live by this idiom in the sense that there is always a goal there is always something to look forward to in life and my creative search and that goal is there … and when I look at it I know it can change at any point and I give myself permission to completely reconsider it every time I look at it. And that’s a very empowering and invigorating way to live life for me … that maintains an openness toward anything that I choose to pursue.”
Since we’re Alma, we of course figured out what expression she’s referring to. This phrase is from Pirkei Avot 3:15
:הַכֹּל צָפוּי, וְהָרְשׁוּת נְתוּנָה, וּבְטוֹב הָעוֹלָם נִדּוֹן. וְהַכֹּל לְפִי רֹב הַמַּעֲשֶׂה
Everything is foreseen, and freewill is given, and with goodness the world is judged. And all is in accordance to the majority of the deed.
Basically, we don’t care at all if Dr. Neri Oxman is dating Brad Pitt. We’re just glad this brilliant, talented, and extremely cool woman is now on our radar.