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Our Daily Molecules 

 A homage to the designs that furnished the 1951 Festival of Britain. An incredible story of collaboration between scientists, designers and manufacturers inspired by the natural beauty of molecular structures. 

by

Unplucked &
Underway Studio

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Our Daily Molecules

A Homage to Dr Helen Megaw and The Festival Pattern Group, 1951 Festival of Britain.


Every day we are reminded of how amazing our planet Earth is; of all its vivid, diverse, and inspiring creatures and structures, now and in the past. A world that opens all these surprises to our eyes, and makes our pulse race. Artists and designers have always looked and found inspiration in all these wonders. And sometimes, with the help of scientific developments, even going beyond the nakedly visible.

At Unplucked, we continue to be fascinated by all things, big and small, that make this world of ours truly amazing.

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Our Daily Molecules. Pattern A.

Following that spirit, we wanted to pay homage to an incredible story of collaboration between scientists, designers and manufacturers which continues to inspire us in our personal project. A story of beauty in nature, and the vision of a collective of people that helped deliver it right to the core of the 1951 Festival of Britain- A celebration of Britain’s curiosity and innovation in science, art, design and industry.

 

At the heart of this story is Dr Helen Megaw, a scientist with an incredible vision, belief and perseverance. Based at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, Dr Megaw was at the forefront of exciting developments in crystallography (in particular, on X-ray crystallography, a field in which Britain was a world leader at the time), a field of science that helps determine the arrangement of atoms in crystal solids.X-ray crystallography was fundamental to the discovery of the structure of many significant molecules, including DNA, penicillin, and insulin in the twentieth century.

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Our Daily Molecules. Pattern B.

From her initial proposals floated in different fora to the creation of the Festival Design Group, her love of the beauty of the structure of molecules drove her to inspire others, including designers and manufacturers.

British manufacturers were commissioned to produce a wide range of products that populated and furnished the rooms and installations of the Festival of Britain. Molecular structures took centre stage in light fittings, curtains, all manner of textiles (including lace and items of clothing such as men’s ties and dresses), and the dinning service showcased at the Regatta Restaurant, the flagship of the exhibition.

The results unveiled at the 1951’s Festival of Britain were indeed breathtaking, like jewels coming out of the rubble. A vision of post-war optimism firmly grounded in Britain’s scientific and technological capabilities at the time.

It is estimated that 18.5 million people attended this exhibition either in London or as part of the travelling exhibition that followed the main event. Bringing people closer to science amongst some of the unsettling messages conveyed by the post-war atomic era.

Our Daily Molecules (ODM) carries the same spirit of amazement at the beauty of structures in nature. Inspired by the sheer diversity of forms, from crystal cells to globular structures, spikier or flatter. Unplucked, in collaboration with Underway Studio, an Illustration & Printmaking collective based in Brixton, South London invite you to navigate this microscopic landscape, and share in some of the wonder that welcomed those 8.5 million visitors to London’s Southbank in 1951, who ate on, sat on, and walked on and through the structure of molecules like they had never done before.

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Lesley Jackson’s ‘From Atoms to Patterns: Crystal structure designs from the 1951 Festival of Britain’, 2008, Richard Dennis Publications in association with Wellcome Trust.

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Lesley Jackson’s ‘From Atoms to Patterns: Crystal structure designs from the 1951 Festival of Britain’, 2008, Richard Dennis Publications in association with Wellcome Trust.

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Lesley Jackson’s ‘From Atoms to Patterns: Crystal structure designs from the 1951 Festival of Britain’, 2008, Richard Dennis Publications in association with Wellcome Trust.

For more information on the story of the 1951 patterns, we recommend:

- Lesley Jackson’s ‘From Atoms to Patterns: Crystal structure designs from the 1951 Festival of Britain’, 2008, Richard Dennis Publications in association with Wellcome Trust.

 

- Mary Schoeser on design and science. Courtesy of The Wellcome Collection.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZAF1u-EgHs&t=364s

 

- 1949–1951 Festival Pattern Group By Haram Kim

https://medium.com/@hhkim/1951-c37a7ceb6aae

 

- From Atoms to PatternsWellcome Exhibition Review, By Ann Coxon in Reviews, 09 Sept. 2008.

https://www.frieze.com/article/atoms-patterns

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