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Jo Chapman
Infectious Agents, UTC College, Cambridge, 2014

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UTC College, Cambridge

Hawkins Brown Architects, London

The UTC building is a new centre of excellence for Biomedical and Environmental Science and Technology and has the purpose of training young scientists. The artwork aims to reflect this function and the way that images are used in visual communication for scientific study. Following meetings with scientists working at the MRC (Medical Research Council) two viruses were selected because of their connections with Cambridge; the Influenza Virus which was discovered in 1933 by Sir John Skehel at the MRC and the Human Papilloma Virus, Professor Margaret Stanley, Professor of Epithelial Biology, Department of Pathology University of Cambridge, won the OBE in 2004 for services to Virology.

The artwork uses diagrammatic images of these two viruses, developing a visual representation that has the correct structural components yet is also a drawing of the imagination, of something that is not really seen. There is a paradox of the images of viruses being visually beautiful, with their simple geometry whilst at the same time being unpleasant and dangerous. The drawings on the facade and glazing magnify the microscopic, and smaller, making use of repetition to reflect the processes of scientific research.

The drawings which are applied to the surface of the metal facade will work with the natural process of oxidation of the Corten steel. Using a clear lacquer to preserve the raw grey colour of the un-oxidised metal, the drawing will appear over time as the metal rusts. It will change with the life of the building mirroring the way a virus will mutate.

The zig-zag glazing also uses drawn images of the same two viruses, this time the drawings are more detailed and are printed into the glass using ceramic inks. The same imagery is also taken onto the 4m high totem sign which is in laser cut, Corten steel.