Synthesis of Art & Science at the LETI Metalaboratory

Synthesis of Art & Science at the LETI Metalaboratory

50 students from universities of Russia and Belarus proposed art& science project concepts at the interdisciplinary summer school "LETI Metalaboratory."


July 19 - 21, LETI held an international school "LETI Metalaboratory" dedicated to the development of interdisciplinary practices in the university. The school was focused on the production of technology-inspired art objects for the campus of the First Electrotechnical.

Unique project development practices of experts and students included inputs from the seemingly polar fields: architecture, environmental design, and art on the one hand and engineering sciences on the other. More than 50 students from universities of Russia and Belarus took part in the school. They were divided into interdisciplinary teams mentored by lecturers and experts from LETI and partner universities: Belarusian State University, Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design, and St. Petersburg Repin Academy of Arts.

Anastasia Minina, LETI Vice-Rector for International Affairs, opened the key discussion of the school. In her presentation, she introduced the audience to the international and interdisciplinary contexts of LETI.

Dmitry Shevchenko, Head of the CDIO laboratory of LETI, presented the theme of novel research and development in the university.

Igor Dukhan, Head of the Department of Art and Environment Design of Belarusian State University, spoke about the artistic approach and philosophical context of transformations in the modern university campus.

"We are starting a joint summer school, and hopefully a further collaboration with LETI. This is a great pleasure for us because LETI is a legendary phenomenon. During these days, we will try to redefine the idea of science through art and design. We are also extremely happy to work with our colleagues from the Stieglitz Academy. I think that during this summer school, new ideas related to the revitalization of LETIs image will emerge," concluded Igor Dukhan.

Professor Olga Bazhenova of Belarusian State University spoke about the artistic and technological interaction between Russia and Belarus. Technology, comfort, and aestheticization of everyday life were the drivers of innovation not only in the 21st but also in the 17th century, when Belarusian artisans and artists brought new technologies and fashion trends to Russia.

Sergey Gorchaninov, a member of the Union of Artists of Russia, Associate Professor of the Department of Interior and Equipment of the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design, focused on the team and individual work of students and his own mentoring experience in architectural contests. He also shared his vision on joint projects.

"We have been interacting with LETI for several years, and this workshop is another stage of our cooperation. This time both Belarusian State University and the Academy of Arts are involved in the project, and, of course, we hope for a close and productive collaboration. Even before that, our students have started draft designs within the LETI Campus Design contest. I am sure that this workshop is an excellent continuation of our long-term collaboration, which will continue under the cooperation agreement signed by our universities".

Sergey Gorchaninov, a member of the Union of Artists of Russia, Associate Professor of the Department of Interior and Equipment of the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design

A key university for creative initiatives combining science and urban design is the St. Petersburg Repin Academy of Arts. Students of the Academy are actively involved in the St. Petersburg's urban revitalization projects. Maria Orlova-Sheiner, Associate Professor of the Department of Humanities and Engineering of the Academy, told about them.

Expert workshops were indispensable for getting know-how on producing objects of art for public places. Gennady Kozel, a well-known Belarusian artist and lecturer at Belarusian State University, explained how, by combining minimal artistic tools with a creative approach and technical training, it is possible to transform ordinary places into spaces that inspire intellectual and innovative activity.

Alexandra Krivosheeva, Associate Professor of the Department of Micro- and Nanoelectronics of LETI, led the interdisciplinary teams to the design stage, by familiarizing them with instruments of the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) and techniques of controlled inventive thinking.

The most interactive presentation was given by Sergey Iesuitov, Associate Professor of the Russian Language Department of LETI, with the case study "Oblomov's gown." The author demonstrated how the material shell, be it a dressing gown, suit, or hoodie, influences the existential content of a person's life.

Participants of the LETI Metalab worked in the practice-oriented CDIO laboratory, where any LETI student can implement ideas and make inventions in the field of bioengineering and far beyond it. Another new experience for young designers and artists was a visit to the laboratories of mechatronics and computer vision. During the excursion, they learned about the work principles of the research teams of the First Electrotechnical, saw some of the latest innovations at work, and discussed their possible practical applications with the researchers.

In the course of 3-day program, the teams fulfilled assignments on the LETI Campus Design contest sites and worked at projects, ideas for which were generated under the guidance of interdisciplinary artist and curator of the LETI Metalab Galina Alferova.

An intensive course on the synthesis of science, technology, architecture, and design resulted in 6 project proposals.

The creative team of the Electrotechton project proposes to place the "Technological Heart of LETI" object in the lobby of Building 5. According to the concept, it is an object designed in the aesthetics of avant-garde architecture with a pulsating panel in the center. Touching it, one will be able to feel and see the "heartbeat of the university."

The LETI DNA project is a radical rethinking of the lobby of Building 5. According to the designers' idea, the staircase and the adjacent spaces can serve as a metaphor of the DNA molecule. This space can be transformed into a co-working area, an exhibition space, a lounge, and a green zone.

The LEDby (LED + lobby) project is a fusion of the real and digital worlds. To realize the project, it is necessary to add wear-resistant LED panels to the flooring in the transit areas of the university. The panels can broadcast absolutely any image and interact with LETI visitors through feedback from cameras that record people's movement. The technical solutions involve computer science, cyber-physical systems, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and computer vision.

Point of Attraction is an art object simultaneously serving as a communication space. It is proposed to place a spherical structure on the LETI Atrium contest site. The project advantage is the authors' reference to the sociological survey conducted as part of the LETI Campus Design contest, as well as an inclusion of the Oblomov's gown concept in their presentation.

The Accents of LETI project presented by Belarus team differed from others by the redesign proposals for the LETI Sports space. In particular, the team's attention was attracted by the picturesque old iron arch connecting buildings in the contest site. An artistic rethinking of the structure and history behind it can turn it into one of LETI's symbols. Another object of transformation, which inspired students and professors from Minsk, was the building of anechoic chamber. The Belorussian team plans to finalize and send their conceptual designs to the LETI Campus Design contest in autumn.

In his individual project "Not only visualization but also sonification!"Dmitry Yarochkin, a postgraduate student of Saint Petersburg State University, proposed the idea of using algorithmic music, which can become an audio symbol of LETI, to emphasize the identity of the university and its campus. Tracks could be synthesized based on the time of year or rhythm of the academic year, the emotional state of those passing through the lobby of the main building, and other input data.

At the contest outcome, the winner-projects for the development and redesign of LETI public areas will be used in the campus revitalization projects.