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Designers Mike and Cindy of Unit Lab
17th August 2017

Water: Q&A with Unit Lab

From a carpet that mimics the tide to a seascape alarm clock, Domestic Sea Collection by London design studio Unit Lab injects everyday objects with the health-giving properties of the sea. The collection is part of upcoming group show Water, an exhibition of aquatic objects and experiments from 13 ground-breaking designers that opens at Peckham’s Copeland Gallery during next month’s London Design Festival.

Sea Headphones in progress

As the old ditty goes, we all like to be beside the seaside. All that healthy sea air and paddling potential, not to mention the smug satisfaction of never being more than five minutes from a quality chippy, it’s good for us (well, maybe not the chips) and science says so too. Researchers from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter looked at data from the UK census of more than 48 million people and found that the closer you live to the sea, the better your health.

But what about us unfortunate land-locked city-dwellers? Luckily help is at hand from Unit Lab. For upcoming show Water, the duo – German designer-maker Cindy Strobach and Greek designer and engineer Mike Vanis, whose background is in computer science and electronics – has developed Domestic Sea Collection, a shoal of objects that instil a bit of coastal living into everyday life.

Based in Peckham, Unit Lab specialises in designing products that make science relevant on a personal level, taking it out of the lab and bringing it into our daily routines. Previous projects have included a Gravity Ruler that uses the principles of physics to weigh objects as well as measure them and table lights that help you find magnetic north. They've even developed a way of making electricity visible by merging organic printing techniques and electrolysis. Ahead of Water, we spoke to Cindy and Mike to find out more about Domestic Sea Collection.

What have you developed for Water?

We are making a series of objects that make urban citizens feel closer to the sea. The objects will be presented in the form of a story about a boy who grew up on the seaside, but now lives in a city. A slow transformation of his domestic surroundings and home objects takes place to remind him of life by the sea. Some examples include an alarm clock that emulates a sunrise over the sea and a carpet that simulates the tide throughout the day.

Sunrise alarm clock in progress

How does the tide carpet work?

The tide carpet connects to the internet via wifi to download tide information for a particular beach. It then simulates the tide in real time by rolling in and out of its base. The carpet itself is made from dyed jute, which is rolled onto an aluminium shaft with a motor that moves it in and out of the acrylic and nylon base. Like the rest of the collection, the carpet has been made in our workshop in Peckham.

How would you like to the Domestic Sea collection being used, and where?

The outcome will be everyday objects and devices that are familiar to people but remind them of the sea. We’ll make subtle changes to everyday products and devices. Therefore, we think that the products will be used in the home, as pieces of homeware that bring some of the sea indoors.

Wave chair in progress

What’s the thinking behind the collection?

We’re exploring the psychological effects that the sea has on people. Scientific research has shown that water makes humans happy. People who live close to the sea tend to be more relaxed and show fewer signs of depression. Surprisingly, artificial urban water sources such as fountains, have a similar effect on people. We will explore whether everyday objects can trigger happiness too, through small interventions in the home.

Want more Water? Read interviews with Andy Sheen, Dean Brown, Fernando Laposse and Henrik Nieratschker

Visit Water at Copeland Gallery from 19 – 24 September. For more info visit www.waterexhibition.co.uk 

Sea toy in progress

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