Experiment 10



September 24, 2010 - January 17, 2011


From 24 September 2010 to 17 January 2011, Le Laboratoire is running an original experimental exhibition on the theme of water, and in particular, the transport of water; the exhibition looks at how this could be made environmentally reliable and more natural.

To probe these questions, French designer François Azambourg and American scientist Donald Ingber brought together a panel of researchers, with the assignment of coming up with a prototype container as close to nature as possible. The panel looked into the feasibility of transporting water via a system inspired by the biological cell, based on a suggestion made in the course of a number of lectures in Harvard University during the fall of 2008 by Professor David Edwards, the founder of Le Laboratoire. Originally perceived as rather utopian, it is now considered that this could actually be done by harnessing the expertise of experienced specialists.

François Azambourg has since been developing this idea through new forms of cell design, and has been preparing the set for Le Laboratoire exhibition.

As part of Le Laboratoire's participative approach, he invited ENSCI students to actively participate in the project.

The experiment is being developed in close collaboration with the scientist Donald Ingber, a cellular biochemistry specialist, and David Edwards, with input from the French researchers Raphaël Haumont and Sidi Bencherif, specialized in the physicochemical properties of materials.

Entitled Cellular Design, the exhibition will go through the various project steps, from initial tests (successes and failures alike) to new forms of bottles incorporating a cellular and ephemeral design.

Download the press release.



About François Azambourg

Award winner of « La Villa Medicis hors les murs » in 2003, of the Grand Prix du Design de Paris 2004, François Azambourg has participated in numerous shows and exhibitions, where his work has been discovered in, Paris, Bordeaux, Roubaix, Monaco, Milan, New York, Beijing, Tokyo…. Since this time, he has created numerous lighting and furniture projects for manufacturers including Ghaadé, Cappellini, Domeau & Pérès, Kréo and Poltrona Frau. As a teacher since 1993, he has shared his unique approach to design in various schools: Esdi, Créapole, Iscom, Boulle, Camondo, ENS Cachan and currently at Ensci-Les Ateliers in Paris. From the very beginning, his work has been totally devoted to the combination of techniques and the true art of applied arts. He is oriented towards simplicity and lightness, pushing himself in the realm of objects to go against common trends. In doing so, in 1985, he won the “Moving” competition organised by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris for a paper coffee pot. He later earned his Master’s degree for Applied in Industrial design from ENSAAMA. Without a doubt, another characteristic of his work is his capacity to totally revise the materiality of an object in regards to its function based on basic observation. From 1988 to 1998, Azambourg was totally focused on the saxophone, declaring it to be a crippled instrument, unstable and heavy due to its size, hence the diffi culty to produce a standardized sound. He set out to improve its productivity, its energy-effi ciency ratio, attempting to be as economical as possible in regards to its load loses. Unlike research done many years ago on the resin body, the option was to lighten the saxophone using the same materials, but seen as a whole. For example, rather than using twisted brass rods, use could be made of lighter, more reliable metal wires, in traction. Collaborating with Selmer and the IRCAM, and sponsored by the Fondation de France in 1988, by the Fondation de la Vocation in 1993 and by the Music and Dance sector of the Minister of Culture from which he received a grant in 1991. However, the risk involved with this work was to remain in the fi eld of invention, which he describes as pathetically obsessive, and to let other goals escape, in this case music, which is the artistic aspect. Distancing himself therefore from this fi eld, his later work, still focussed on lightweight techniques, sought to be more transversal, now looking more specifi cally at the products of environment. As soon as 1993, his work became more transversal. In 1994, Azambourg won the CTBA competition on “Furniture materials for the future”. In addition, his research was enhanced by the development of new materials for Hermès and Mandarina duck, exploring associations of materials in 1989-1999, which resulted in a patent for wood-foam sandwiches. This research was awarded a VIA Project assistance grant. In 2000, he registered a patent for the “Pack” chair. This auto-constructing chair, also selected as a VIA’s Project assistance grant, exploits the association of 3D textile with the injection of polyurethane foam that challenges the usual practices of distributors by reducing the cost of shipping and reducing storage space: the chair is delivered in the shape of a pack which capitalizes on the polyurethane foam’s ability to expand (10 times is initial volume).

This approach increases ways in which the chair can be used, since each individual can decide on exactly when he wants to construct the chair. In 2001, VIA selected his infl atable 3D textile lamp for a Project assistance grant, which was also the subject of a patent registration. Azambourg’s research has even resulted in an infl atable 3D textile house, which was presented at the NOW show that same year. In 2002, he extended his exploration to fi bre optic lights developing a 12cu.m.-piece that was presented at the Designer’s Days in Paris. This is the source of a major part of his current work. But because both press and television were concentrating mainly on the experimental nature of his activities, he feared being labelled simply as an inventor. At this time, a specifi c project, the “Very nice” chair, chosen by VIA in 2002, enabled him to showcase new creative abilities. Based on a childhood memory, scale models made from balsawood and paper, the designer sought to recreate an object that was “pretty yet uncomfortable, but light-weight and red”. This approach, seemingly inessential, (the designer admits that, strangely he initially felt guilty for making this chair) is reminiscent of his childhood fascination of insects as being the strangest creature; as sort of “exoticism at our doorstep”. Later, for Lille 2004, the European Capital of Culture, Azambourg designed a mobile microrestaurant, revisiting interior decoration and treating it as a slightly off-scale object. In 2005, VIA gave him a “Carte Blanche”. This was his opportunity to delve into research on honeycomb structures and leather-foam sandwiches. He presented a series of honeycomb partitions, a pixelized clock with a honeycombed facade, a silver dish from a lost wax cast modelled from a sheet of wax and confectioned by bees, a light made up of a cloud of laterally emitting optic fi bres and autonomous diodes and a leather-foam seat with a metal frame, prototyped by Domeau & Pérès in collaboration with Hermès. The pieces from his Carte Blanche research are now all in production by the following manufacturers: Domeau & Pérès, Ligne Roset, Cappellini, Poltrona Frau. In addition to this production, a monumental, 18-meter light was created for Les Galeries Lafayette in Toulouse. 2005 was also the year of the creation of a line of lightweight bags for Hermès as well as the beginning of research on metal-foam seats, initially commissioned by Kréo. The result: a stool made of 2/10 mm silver, tin welded and injected with polyurethane. Later, the same piece was done in copper in the same thickness. In 2006, this research gave birth to the Bugatti series; a furniture collection of chairs, armchairs and stools in 2/10 mm steel produced by Cappellini using the same technique, but now lacquered in conventional colours of pre-1970 race cars. Currently, François Azambourg continues his research in the fi elds of lighting and furniture through a widely open exploration of techniques constantly aiming at the fundamental, as can be seen in his work for Japanese fi rms on recycling paper resulting in an “all paper” house.

About Don E. Ingber

Donald E. Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., has made major contributions to cell and tissue engineering, as well as angiogenesis and cancer research, systems biology, and nanobiotechnology. His research group is interested in how living cells and tissues structure themselves so as to exhibit their incredible organic properties, including their ability to change shape, move, and grow. His team strives to identify design principles that govern the formation and control of living systems, and to use this knowledge to develop novel therapeutics, devices, and robotic systems. By combining approaches from molecular cell biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, computer science, magnetics, and optics, Ingber has helped to develop multiple new experimental nano- and micro-technologies, as well as engineered tissues and cancer therapeutics that have entered human clinical trials. His pioneering work demonstrating that tensegrity architecture is a fundamental principle that governs how living cells and tissues are structured at the nanometer scale has inspired a new generation of cancer researchers, bioengineers, and nanotechnologists. It also has resulted in the discovery of the molecular mechanism by which living cells sense and respond to mechanical forces.
His contributions include more than 290 publications and 35 patents in areas ranging from anti-cancer therapeutics, tissue engineering, medical devices, and nanotechnology to bioinformatics software. Ingber received his B.A., M.A., M.Phil., M.D., and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University before completing his postdoctoral training with Judah Folkman at Harvard University. He holds the Judah Folkman Professorship of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, and he is a Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Ingber served as Co-Director of Harvard’s Center for Integration in Medicine and Innovative Technology at Children’s Hospital from 2005-2007. He helped to found two biotechnology start-ups, and has consulted for multiple pharmaceutical, biotechnology, venture capital and private investment companies, as well as the Department of Defense, Offi ce of National Intelligence and National Public Radio. Among his many awards and distinctions, Ingber received the Biomedical Engineering Society’s top award for 2009, the Pritzker Distinguished Lectureship, was named one of the world’s “Best and Brightest” in 2003 by Esquire magazine, and is a recipient of a Breast Cancer Innovator Award from the Department of Defense. Ingber is the Founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, which was launched in January 2009 with a $125 million dollar gift -- the largest single philanthropic gift in the history of Harvard University.