Dezeen Magazine

Metronome is a sensory installation "where the notion of time is lost"

Alter-Projects and Servaire & Co have partnered to design Metronome, an oscillating installation at the London Design Biennale created to trigger memories through sounds and smells.

Called Metronome, the installation is a room with a scent-diffusing physical metronome at its centre accompanied by an ASMR soundscape by designer Steve Lastro.

Alter-Projects and Servaire & Co designed the project
Metronome is an installation at the London Design Biennale

Traditionally, a metronome is a ticking device used by musicians to mark time as they play an instrument.

Crafted from bent steel, the installation's metronome has an elegant hourglass form and is designed in the shape of a Möbius loop, or a three-dimensional curve with only one side.

The installation is at Somerset House
The installation includes a bent steel metronome

A metal pendulum is attached to the looped structure that oscillates at 60 degrees on a silent and frictionless ball joint, omitting a scent. The base of the structure has an electro-magnetic system.

Through the sounds and smells created by the soundscape and metronome, the aim of the installation is to prompt memories and was informed by novelist Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

The project is intended as "an alter to the senses"
A scent is omitted from a swinging pendulum

"Our idea was to create an altar to the senses, a bubble where the notion of time is lost and visitors can find the space to reconnect with themselves, their inner thoughts and deep-seeded memory," said Servaire & Co creative director Sebastian Servaire and Alter-Projects founder Anne-Laure Pingreoun.

"2020 was a shock and impacted us all as individuals and as a community. We wanted a space that could offer an individual experience as well as a collective one through the most natural of tools, our senses," Servaire and Pingreoun told Dezeen.

The diffuser attached to the metronome's pendulum omits an earthy scent that Servaire designed alongside Servaire & Co's Candido De Barros and Gregory Sidoine.

Featuring notes of burnt wood, musk, grass and ginger, the scent was constructed to spark an array of memories and emotions in visitors.

The object has an electromagnetic base
An electromagnetic structure helps the pendulum swing

"It is an allegory for the passing of time, transformation, reconnection and discovery," explained Servaire and Pingreoun.

The scent was designed with a system based on a cartridge containing enclosed scented beads that activate and release a continuously evolving aroma when put in contact with air flow.

A soundscape accompanies the swinging structure
The metronome is positioned in a room that plays a soundscape

Lastro's soundscape was created to play alongside the scent-omitting metronome, mirroring the pendulum's repetitive movement.

"The soundscape is composed of overarching layers, generated algorithmically, oscillating up and down at precise frequencies to echo the movement of the object," said Servaire and Pingreoun.

A scent is released that triggers memories
The scent released by the metronome is intended to trigger memories

Complete with specific ASMR sounds designed to trigger feelings of relaxation and peace, the soundscape plays ticking clocks and water droplets, as well as tapping and crinkling sounds.

Metronome is intended as a meditative space for visitors to reflect on the difficulties they experienced during the last year, and find a sense of calm in its aftermath.

It has an hourglass structure
The metronome is shaped like a Möbius loop

"We want visitors to leave the installation asking themselves, did that resonate with me?" concluded Servaire and Pingreoun.

"We hope it will provoke new ideas, specifically thinking around how to integrate such spaces within cities and offices. We all need to decompress, daily, and should have a space to do so."

Alter-Projects and Servaire & Co designed the installation
The metronome has an hourglass structure

Alter-Projects is a multidisciplinary curatorial agency founded in 2015 by Anne-Laure Pingreoun. Servaire & Co is a Paris-based design studio.

The London Design Biennale 2021 is directed by British artist and stage designer Es Devlin under the theme of "resonance."

Another project which encapsulates this theme is Forest for Change. Devlin has filled the courtyard at Somerset House, where the biennale is held, with a forest of trees designed as "a place of transformation."

Photography and video are courtesy of Servaire & Co.

Project credits:

Sound design: Steve Lastro, K-Array, Moodsonic

Metronome is on display at Somerset House as part of the London Design Biennale, which takes place from 1 to 27 June 2021. See Dezeen Events Guide for all the latest information you need to know to attend the event, as well as a list of other architecture and design events taking place around the world.