Dezeen Magazine

Kim Thomé installs giant crystal zoetrope inside London's V&A museum

London Design Festival 2015: London designer Kim Thomé's Zotem installation features patterns of faceted crystals that appear to rise up 18 metres through the V&A museum's grand entrance (+ movie).

Thomé was commissioned by crystal brand Swarovski to create the installation, which is named Zotem as a blend of the words zoetrope and totem.


A zoetrope is a 19th-century animation device, which creates the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of isolated drawings that appear to move as they flick past the eye in quick succession.

Thomé has adapted this idea for Zotem, with illuminated coloured stripes that pass behind steel sheets punctured by over 600 crystals.


The large faceted glass pieces – in shapes including triangles, circles and rectangles – are arranged in patterns up the full height of the double-sided structure.

The shapes create a prismatic effect as the colours pass underneath in a continuous loop.


"An illuminated colour pattern runs behind the crystals at a set speed and distance and is distorted differently in the several types of cut crystals," said the Norway-born designer. "This distortion looks like movement in the crystals travelling upwards in the structure."

The patinated black steel sheets are mounted onto an aluminium structure to keep the design as lightweight as possible.


While the metal sheets form the front and back, the sides are purposefully left exposed to show how the visual effect is created.

"We left the sides open to reveal the inner workings of the effect," Thomé said. "This way visitors can figure out how it all works which was an important feature for me when I designed it."


Stood in the centre of the Grand Entrance, Zotem is designed to draw visitors' eyes up towards the ornately decorated ceiling of the Victorian building.

The tower rises all the way up to the museum's contemporary ceramics gallery on level six, where the installation can also be viewed.


"The idea is really based on how the crystals interact with their surrounding," Thomé told Dezeen. "Instead of the crystals being clustered in a chandelier I have isolated them so you can really experience what is happening in the crystals facets."

"The grand entrance is a very transient place but has an extraordinary interior if you look up," he added.


The designer, who graduated from London's Royal College of Art in 2012, visited Swarovski's recently extended Kristallwelten headquarters and theme park in Austria during the design process.

The commission extends his work with colour and reflection – he has previously used two-way mirrors to reflect vinyl stripes covering the walls of a London gallery and create optical illusions on a range of furniture pieces.

"My visit to Swarovski's Kristallwelten gave me the confidence to play with scale, and the creative and technical collaboration with their engineers allowed me to create these amazing crystals especially for this project," said Thomeé in a statement. "I love the way it looks digital, but is actually a giant visual illusion."


Zotem is installed for this year's London Design Festival, which takes place from 19 to 27 September 2015, and will remain in place until 31 October 2015.

As one of the hubs for the festival, the V&A is hosting a variety of installations that include a series of adaptable mirrored platforms in its central atrium and a tower of tiny ceramic shops within the Medieval and Renaissance sculpture gallery.

Photography is by Mark Cocksedge.