Mathias Gmachl of Loop.pH explains how the London design studio's large-scale lighting installations help people relate to cutting-edge research in molecular biology in our next Designed in Hackney Day movie.
The studio aims to make science more accessible to people by creating environments in which they can experience the processes and structures first-hand, on an understandable scale. "We are trying to create artworks in the city that bring cutting-edge research in biology and in energy into the public sphere, into a park in the centre of the city, so people can actually relate to this research and get an understanding of what is about to happen to them."
Since 2003, Gmachl and Rachel Wingfield's Hackney-based studio loop.pH has combined science and design for projects ranging from community enhancement schemes in Hackney to installations at London's Kensington Palace (above and below).
"The relationship with science is at the heart of what we do because we are very hungry researchers," says Gmachl.
"We've developed illuminated, self-supporting animated architectural textiles using an old textile technique, lace making, that's brought up to an architectural scale then combined with parametric design software to create some very ephemeral light installations," he says.
Their research into metabolisms and energy flows began with a collaboration with British Nobel Prize-winning scientist John Walker, which led to large-scale interpretations of his molecular research and metabolic machines. "We took one of our textile techniques, based on taking a material and charging it up with energy, to create a molecular structure on a human scale," he explains.
Collaboration is also important to Loop.pH's work and Gmachl describes how creating artworks with residents on an east London estate to transform a notorious drug spot into a useable space was about "planting seeds" in the community. "It's not about telling people what to do, it's about trying to help find the opportunities and develop the skills so they can be practised," he says.
"For a designer this is actually a difficult process, because designing is the thing that we consider ourselves to be best at and it's the thing that we really want to do so to give up that level of control, to allow other people to design and to make the choices, is something that we have to learn to overcome."
Based in Stoke Newington, the Loop.pH studio is just around the corner from Dezeen's offices. Dezeen's Designed in Hackney initiative was launched to highlight the best architecture and design made in the borough, which was one of the five host boroughs for the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as being home to Dezeen’s offices.
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