The Scales of Life

Elaine Shemilt (Artist), Michael Ferguson (Collaborator)

    Research output: Non-textual formArtefact

    2 Downloads (Pure)


    An artwork for a new building: Centre for Translational and Interdisciplinary Research, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee. For the front facades of the building 15 large anodised aluminium cladding panels incorporate an artistic abstraction representative of four key scales of life-science research: Molecular, Organellar, Cellular and Tissue. Shemilt and Ferguson collaborated on the interpretation and translation of scientific models, diagrams and illustrations from various science teams and labs, with the objective of producing iconic designs that would both accurately reflect the science, embody an aesthetic response, and be possible to be reproduced by the manufacturing process – perforation of different size circular holes into the metal panels. Shemilt initiated her designs through traditional sketching variations and prints, and digitised these images to computer, which controlled the laser cutting into card. The trials and experimentation with the laser cutter proved to be an innovative visualization process, and problematic as the difference between images on screen and cut-out on card was quite defining and relatively crude; although it did provide the three dimensional quality that was deemed necessary. By March 2011 Shemilt had produced a range of prototypes to discuss with the Architectural team (BMJ), and panel manufacturer. Only one previous project had been undertaken before using this perforation technique and it couldn’t render images and retain the detail required. Considerable more research had to go into modifying the images to address the limitations of the manufacturing – using the engineering equipment and software. The optimum solutions were then selected for final prototyping in the Summer of 2012, with delivery of the first panels in February 2013, followed by the remainder from May 2013.
    An overarching objective of the artwork is to engage the wider University, general public and visitors to the building, communicating some of the key areas of life-sciences research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationDundee
    Media of outputOther
    Size15 panels 1.5m wide x 14.4m high
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


    • Life sciences - history
    • Molecular
    • Cellular
    • Tissue
    • Art/science
    • Public art
    • Public engagement


    Dive into the research topics of 'The Scales of Life'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
    • Scales of Life

      Elaine Shemilt (Contributor)

      6 Oct 201411 Jan 2015

      Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesFestival/Exhibition

    • Scales of Life

      Elaine Shemilt (Participant)

      1 Oct 201411 Jan 2015

      Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesFestival/Exhibition


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