Confrontations @ Vitra Design Museum

A project by Lucas Maassen + Roche
for the Confrontations @ Vitra Design Museum exhibition

A film by Lucas Maassen + Mike Roelofs

Lucas Maassen has worked with the sciences several times in the past. His Nano Chair, for example, is the result of a collaboration with a physicist and was “built” using an ion milling technique. Just five micrometers large, this chair is only visible through a special focused ion beam (FIB) microscope. Thus, Maassen raises interesting questions, like when does a chair become a chair? What size does an object need so that we call it an object?

Based in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a global healthcare company. Highly innovative and a world leader in in-vitro diagnostics and cancer drugs, it is specialized in two divisions, Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. Discovery Chemistry at Roche is a central science in Drug Discovery Research. Its expert team of medicinal and computational chemists focuses on the creation of small molecules as potential new medicines towards the improvement of patients' lives.

At the start of their common “Confrontations” project, Lucas Maassen raised once again a question: Is it possible to use the biological process that created me as a design process to create an object? The answer to that question took several months. Together with Roche, he first crystallized artificially produced DNA fragments. A magnified glass version of this crystal, which is, of course, only visible under the microscope, was then produced by the Vienna-based crystal manufactory Lobmeyr. One thousand pieces of them will become a crystal chandelier.

Ultimately, this project is about the visualization of life. DNA is the basic code of life, an essential part of every organism. Every one of us contains DNA which could also be crystallized and turned into a chandelier—also the sister that Lucas Maassen never had, because his parents’ marriage ended too soon. Thinking of her, he called the project “My Crystal Sister Valerie”, according to the name that his parents would have chosen for him, had he been a girl. The chandelier—and thus, their “crystal daughter”—will be assembled by Maassen’s parents in a performance on June 12.

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