Valerie, My Crystal Sister is a crystal chandelier, presented by Dutch designer Lucas Maassen in collaboration with Roche for the new Confrontations: Contemporary Dutch Design exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum.
At the beginning of his project, Maassen started by raising a question: is it possible to use the biological process that created me as a design process to create an object? The answer to this question took several months. Together with Roche, he first crystallized synthetic DNA fragments. A magnified glass version of this crystal, which is, of course, only visible under the microscope, was then produced by the Vienna-based crystal manufactory Lobmeyr. One thousand such pieces will then form a crystal chandelier.
Ultimately, this project is about the visualization of life. DNA is the basic code of life, an essential part of every organism. Every one of us contains DNA fragments like the ones Lucas Maassen and Roche crystallized and turned into a chandelier — including the designer's parents and the sister that he never had because his parents' marriage ended too soon.
Thinking of her, he called the project Valerie, my Crystal Sister, according to the name that his parents would have chosen for him, had he been a girl. The chandelier — and thus, their "crystal daughter" — was be assembled by Maassen's parents in a performance on 12 June.
Lucas Maassen has worked with the sciences several times in the past. His Nano Chair, for example, is the result of a collaboration with a physicist and was "built" using an ion milling technique. Just five micrometres in size, this chair is only visible through a special focused ion beam microscope. Thus, Maassen raises questions, like when does a chair become a chair? What size does an object need so that we call it an object?
Based in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a global healthcare company. Highly innovative and a world leader in invitro diagnostics and cancer drugs, it is specialized in two divisions, Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. Discovery Chemistry at Roche is a central science in Drug Discovery Research. Its expert team of medicinal and computational chemists focuses on the creation of small molecules as potential new medicines towards the improvement of patients' lives.