aurora by dassault systèmes & arthur mamou-mani clouds atrium of design museum in london

Nov 08, 2021

an awe-inspiring, semi-transparent cloud of 375 3D-printed, bio-sourced modules welcomes public visitors to the design museum in london, seemingly floating in its famed atrium, and flooding the floor with a mesmerizing play of light and shadow. the installation, titled aurora, was created in collaboration between dassault systèmes‘ design studio and arthur mamou-mani to not only coincide with the museum’s ticketed ‘waste age: what can design do?’ exhibition but also the 2021 united nations climate change conference (COP26) in glasgow. its design demonstrates the principles of circular architecture using a material – inspired by dried cactus fiber – that can be bio-sourced, 3D-printed, crushed, reprinted, and is industrially biodegradable.

open from october 23 to november 14, 2021, designboom interviews three leading designers of the aurora collaboration: carmen hu, architectural designer at mamou-mani architects; nicolas sénémaud, dassault systèmes solution architect; and paul-emeric roger from dassault systèmes’ design studio.

the aurora installation is part of dassault systèmes’ ongoing ‘design for life’ program, where the 3D design and engineering software specialist’s design studio collaborates with leading creatives, such as kengo kuma, thom mayne and patrick jouin, to explore how science and technology can empower designers to innovate out of the current waste age. this includes experimental research into the use of upstream thinking, a design approach that makes regeneration a requirement of every project. aurora – in both its installation and informative scenography – showcases the power and possibilities of sustainable innovation, from material selection to design and fabrication to creative collaboration.

‘the aurora installation guides visitors at the design museum from the entrance, underneath its design, and then up the stairs to the mezzanine floor. there, a scenography of mixed media displays narrates the story of the whole concept: the material research, considerations for waste product, module iterations, 3D-printing fabrication, and even the repurposing of filaments that can be crushed and either reused or biodegraded,’ explains carmen hu, architectural designer at mamou-mani architects, to designboom.

dried cactus fiber formed the initial idea behind the experimental module designs for the aurora installation by dassault systèmes’ design studio and arthur mamou-mani. these needed to be capable of being 3D-printed, assembled and then crushed, melted, recycled and reformed as if a continuous, closed loop until it is composted back to earth. the collaborators’ quest for an alternative to fossil-based plastic led to PLA, a non-toxic and 100% recyclable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources, such as potato, wheat and corn starch. in comparison to ABS, for example, the bio-material delivers similar mechanical strength and plasticity but requires less energy to produce.

‘at the office of arthur mamou-mani, we take nature as our biggest inspiration because it is the result of millions of years of evolution against many parameters,’ adds carmen. ‘dried cactus fiber catalyzed the initial inspiration for aurora. we extracted its principles and applied them to designing 3D modules, which is where we worked in collaboration with dassault systèmes. this enabled the opportunity to fabricate with PLA, a material that is far less harmful to the environment than petroleum-based plastic.’

from the bio-material’s molecular level through to the whole physical installation and end-of-life, aurora was designed using the virtual tools of dassault systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud. teams from arthur mamou-mani and dassault systèmes’ design experts, spread across the globe during the covid-19 pandemic, were able to collaboratively create using one system.

‘using CATIA xGenerative design, which is a tool on 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud, meant we could model together with carmen at arthur mamou-mani in a multi-person collaboration. we all worked with the same session, shared the dashboard, and used one model for two different entities,’ remarks nicolas sénémaud, dassault systèmes solution architect.

the xGenerative design solution enabled the formulization of the architectural system that governed the design rules of aurora. once defined, this liberated creative focus on assembly, disassembly and modularity. other design-aiding tools also used on 3DEXPERIENCE platform included virtual reality, 3D modelling and simulations in a virtual twin experience.

‘once we validated the overall concept, we had to create the generative system to eventually originate the whole installation,’ explains nicolas. ‘we only had a couple of sketches and an idea of how the modules would be stacked. we defined the design rules, behaviors and tolerances for all the different parameters to be taken into account for the generative system to then populate the space with modules.’

with the system designed, parameters were added to understand the possibilities of the concept within the atrium of the design museum. these ranged from size to weight considerations but also aesthetic values too. the platform enabled the team to precisely recreate the space virtually to effectively simulate scenarios. high-impact photorealistic visuals meant the designers could experience the installation’s appearance in all angles and at different times of the day. live rendering & ambience tools aided the configuration as well as transparencies of the floating modules to choreograph the shower of light and shadow on to the museum’s floor.

the power of dassault systèmes’ technologies not only improves efficiency by optimizing the creative and engineering process but also enables an easy understanding of the sustainable decision making of design. the 3DEXPERIENCE platform has the ability to imagine, experiment, design, optimize, test, visualize and refine creations virtually and in parallel before consuming any physical materials. this meant the choice of PLA was validated from design to engineering to fabrication. the life cycle assessment tool evaluated and informed every design decision to reduce environmental footprint, as proven with aurora.

despite its cloud-like form, there is no hiding in the shadows for sustainable design with the aurora installation. it shines as an immersive, informative and inspiring beacon of circularity for public visitors at the design museum, before they continue to the ticketed ‘waste age’ exhibition. the 3D-printed, bio-sourced design demonstrates a world where every ‘made’ object – from home to mobility and cities – can be imagined, invented and manufactured for sustainability. it proves how far the possibilities of sustainable design can reach with the right creative collaboration and, of course, software.

‘as designers, we believe that the more we learn about the materials, the more we are prepared for the future,’ concludes carmen hu, architectural designer at mamou-mani architects.

the aurora installation by dassault systèmes and arthur mamou-mani demonstrates the principles of circular architecture

once the modules were designed, xGenerative design tool was used for the design to populate the atrium of the design museum london

project info:

installation: aurora

design: dassault systèmes, design studio 3DS and arthur mamou-mani

design teams: paul-emeric roger and nicolas sénémaud at dassault systèmes design studio; and carmen hu at mamou-mani architects

location: design museum, london

open dates: october 23 to november 14, 2021

admission: free

exhibition info:

title: waste age: what can design do?

location: design museum, london

open dates: october 23, 2021 to february 20, 2022

admission: ticketed