es devlin

Award-winning conceptual designer Es Devlin has just unveiled Zoetrope on Silo Square at the V&A Waterfront. Commissioned by Mercedes-Benz South Africa, the work aims to explore the near future of electric mobility. 

The British designer’s last public project was Please Feed The Lions at the recent London Design Week in September in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture. Using machine-learning algorithms Devlin sought to give the four bronze lions in Trafalgar Square a poetic voice through public participation and projection mapping. Devlin’s Poem Pavilion concept was recently chosen to represent the United Kingdom at the Dubai Expo 2020.

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Devlin’s winning proposal for the Dubai Expo 2020

Zoetrope, which was commissioned by Mercedes-Benz after this year’s Design Indaba, seeks to ignite public imagination about how electric-powered travel will change our perception, environments and behaviour. As Devlin explains:

“Our landscapes bear the traces of every successive historic transport system overlaid: each new mode of human connection imprints its geometry onto our planet’s geography. First it was paths traced by human feet, the location of resting places determined by levels of human endurance; then tracks from cart wheels and a network of coaching inns with stables, their frequency determined by the metabolism of a horse. Next the size of gas tanks in fossil-fuel driven cars determined the geometry of the global highway petrol station network.”

Using this as a point of departure, Es Devlin chose 12 varied points within a 100 kilometre radius of the site where she, together with South African filmmakers, gathered footage to be used in 12 one-minute films. These clips are projected inside the labyrinth of Zoetrope which is constructed from a steel frame clad in concrete panels composed of sand collected at the 12 locations and the same cement used in the Silo building. The pavilion is also powered exclusively via solar panels.

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Es Devlin at Zoetrope at Silo Square, V&A Waterfront

The films invite visitors to take a simultaneous tour through the installation and the city. With light, colour and sound the immersive journey intends to leave the viewer with a greater understanding of space and the relationship between solar energy, location and electric mobility. As Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz South African and Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars explains:

“The automotive industry is currently undergoing a transformation that offers great opportunities to shape the future in lasting ways through innovation, inspiration and fascination. Mercedes-Benz is proud to have commissioned an artwork that embodies emotion and intelligence while considering the future of mobility and introducing South Africa to our (Electric Intelligence) EQ technologies.”

Zoetrope will be open to the public for the next year and is free of charge.

Es Devlin’s practice was featured in a recent Netflix documentary called Abstract: The Art of Design which you can read more about here. See more inventive design from Dutch Design Week here