Digital Explorers: Discovery at Metropolitan Works

An exhibition featuring work by designers including Tord BoontjeTimorous Beasties and Antony Gormley opens at creative industry centre Metropolitan Works in London on Monday.


Called Digital Explorers: Discovery, the exhibition marks the launch of the new Metropolitan Works building, which provides technology, training and workspaces for designers, artists and engineers. Top image: Allegro-Cressendo stereo speaker by Studio Tord Boontje. Above: Escapeland (scenic) Windfarm by Timorous Beasties.


The nine artists, designers, architects and jewellers involved in the project each used the digital manufacturing facilities available at Metropolitan Works to create their project.


The exhibition will be open to the public 9th February - 12th March.

Captions and information provided by Metropolitan Works:


Above: Fallen Leaves by Guy Beggs
Image copyright Pelle Crepin

Painter Guy Beggs' revolutionary piece Fallen Leaves is a three dimensional development of a painting inspired by the sight of fragile leaves trapped in a steel grid. Built entirely in nylon this work demonstrates the surprisingly delicate effects that can be achieved using Rapid Prototyping technology.


Above:  Escapeland – (scenic) – Windfarm and Escapeland – (scenic) – Urban Animals by Timorous Beasties
Image copyright Pelle Crepin

Designers Timorous Beasties are known for their surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers. This exhibition sees them using a laser cutter for the first time, to etch onto the surfaces of bricks. Several ranges of tessellating patterns have been created including Escapeland – (scenic) – Windfarm featuring people sat on grassland with a windfarm in the background, and Escapeland (scenic) – Urban Animals, depicting a city scene of foxes, telephone boxes and electricity cables.


Above: CORE, 2008 by Antony Gormley
Image copyright Bill Osment

Antony Gormley made use of digital manufacturing for the first time to cut the master for his figurative sculpture. Previously made by hand, the process would often take up to 3 weeks. Using digital technology was both faster and resulted in a more accurate model. His stunning iron sculpture was CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) Routed from modelling foam, before being cast in iron and finished by hand. The figure is suspended from a beam adjacent to the CNC machine used to create it, within the Centre’s imposing machine hall. “The idea was to see if the volume of the body could be re-described as a bubble matrix: a tight packing of polyhedral cells that transform anatomy into geometry,” says Gormley.


Above: Allegro-Cressendo by Studio Tord Boontje
Image copyright Pelle Crepin

Tord Boontje has designed a pair of stereo speakers crawling with rapid prototyped insects and flowers. As an analogy with music, real flowers and insects are 3D scanned and then digitally sampled, cut, mixed, scaled and re-arranged to create a new piece. The fully-functional speakers are then created in stainless steel on the Centre’s Rapid Prototyping machine.


Above: The lost twin ornaments by Committee
Image copyright Pelle Crepin

The Lost Twin Ornaments’ by Committee are a series of sculptures that invite reflection upon the nature of the aesthetic produced by digital technologies. A collection of mundane items were arranged into unlikely couples, 3D scanned and then modelled in CAD to a create complex, abstract forms that unite two disparate items into a single sculpture.

“These ‘alien’ shapes are conjured as much by process as through artistry and seem to represent to us the enormous engine of production in the 21st century, which almost miraculously brings forth all our material goods,” say Committee.


Above: A selection of files from the 2008 Munich SmartGeometry workshop
Image copyright Pelle Crepin.

SmartGeometry Group a collaboration between some of the world’s leading architectural and engineering practices, including Foster+Partners and Buro Happold, and educational institutions, such as Bath University, promote the emergence of a new generation of digital designers and craftsmen, who are able to exploit the combination of digital and physical media. The group’s interests range from parametric design and scripting to digital manufacturing. A selection from the results of the 2008 Munich SmartGeometry Workshop will be exhibited through a set of SLS physical models.


Above: Sunsum stool by Michael Marriott
Image copyright Pelle Crepin

Product designer Michael Marriott maintained his trademark theme of using honest materials by creating a carved wooden stool from a solid block of timber. “The design is inspired by traditional African stools and head rests, that are carved from one piece of tree trunk, usually with decorative or figurative elements cut into or through the surface," says Marriott.


Above: Buoy to man by JAM
Image copyright Pelle Crepin

Creative studio JAM produced a piece inspired by the excitement and anticipation of the 2012 Olympic Games. Working with aspiring athletes, JAM asked each individual to put forward meaningful objects integral to their training experience. The selection process resulted in a collaboration with swimmer Daniel Fogg, who brought a training kick board to the project. A 3D scan of the kickboard was then used to carve a larger, more permanent version of the original out of Dupont Corian® using cutting edge digital technology. The final piece will be seen in a photographic portrait of Daniel Fogg with the oversized kickboard, at the site of the future London games.


Above: White on black by Charlotte De Syllas
Image copyright Pelle Crepin

Jeweller Charlotte De Syllas, renowned for her skills in stone carving, used Metropolitan Works’ water-jet cutter to cut basic shapes from Agate (a type of Chalcedony) which she then painstakingly carved by hand.


Metropolitan Works’ state-of-the-art digital technology includes 5 axis water-jet cutting, a range of rapid prototyping machines, 5 axis CNC routing, 3D Scanning and London’s largest laser cutter available as a bureau service.

The Centre, designed by award winning architects Cartwright Pickard, will be the only place in London to provide technology, training and workspaces for designers, artists, engineers and other businesses to develop and realise creative and innovative ideas, all under one roof.

“We are thrilled to be launching our unique Centre with this fascinating exhibition. In the hands of these foremost artists, designers, architects and jewellers, digital technology is a new tool pushed and stretched to its limits, to produce great work. Some have used it to solve technical problems whilst others explore its potential to create a new aesthetic. The show highlights the incredible impact of this new technology on the future of art and design, and the value of a Centre which provides the tools for creative minds to innovate.” Matthew Lewis, Metropolitan Works Centre Manager

Located on the edge of the City in London’s Creative Quarter, Metropolitan Works Creative Industries Centre provides a comprehensive Bureau service offering manufacturing and prototyping across a wide range of £2 million state-of-the-art digital technology. The Bureau is supported by a team of specialist technicians and complemented by an extensive range of training courses, talks and support packages. The Centre will also offer a flexible and highly economical alternative to renting fixed term workshops and studios, by providing fully equipped project workspace, CAD desks and meeting rooms on a Pay and Go basis.

An integral part of London Metropolitan University, Metropolitan Works provides an extensive range of state-of-the-art digital technology previously only available in industry for exploration by creative practitioners and manufacturers. In addition it continues to offer access to its well-established and traditional manufacturing facilities, CAD training and general creative business and technical advice.  Metropolitan Works is supported by ERDF, Communities and Local Government, LDA and City Fringe Partnership.

The London Development Agency is the Mayor's agency for sustainable economic development. The LDA supports hundreds of partner organisations to help build a thriving economy for London's people, businesses and communities. The LDA is dedicated to improving sustainability, health and equality of opportunity for Londoners.

Exhibition Design
The exhibition design has been produced by emerging graphic design talent Oscar & Ewan.  Based in East London, the duo have an enviable client list with previous projects including exhibition designs for Associate, Designersblock and SCP in addition to album sleeve designs for Roots Manuva and Wiley.

Computation and the use of digital design tools as an intelligent design aid provide the focus for the SmartGeometry Group.  It was formed in 2001 as a partnership between Practice, Research and Academia.  Some of the world's leading architectural and engineering practices ( Foster+Partners, KPF, Arup, Buro Happold) and educational institutions ( Architectural Association, MIT, Delft Technical University, University of Bath)  are represented in its core organisation.

The activities of the SmartGeometry Group promote the emergence of a new generation of digital designers and craftsmen, who are able to exploit the combination of digital and physical media. The group’s  interests range from parametric design and scripting to digital manufacturing. The SmartGeometry  community is built on an annual workshop and conference. A selection from the results of the the 2008 Munich SmartGeometry Workshop will be exhibited through a set of SLS physical models.

Digital Explorers: Discovery will be accompanied by a season of free events, talks and symposia.