Hypnotic Programmable Chandelier Is Inspired by Bird Flight (Video)

Video screen capture. Harvey & John via Vimeo

Can nature help us innovate at the cutting edge where technology and design meet? Some experts believe it can, through the practice of what's called biomimicry, emulating nature's well-adapted designs, systems, and patterns and applying them to human problems. It could be as simple as looking to the helicopter shape of maple seeds to improve airborne nano-vehicles, to more complex things like understanding the underlying patterns of an ecosystem and applying them to urban design.

It can also show up in our cultural artifacts too. Brighton, England designers Richard Harvey and Keivor John of Harvey & John looked to the mesmerizing movements of starlings in formations known as murmurations, and created this striking kinetic installation that also doubles as a 16-foot-tall chandelier. Watch this three-story gizmo go:

Murmuration Chandelier from Harvey & John on Vimeo.

According to Creators' Project, the Murmuration Chandelier is yet another of the quirky artist-designer duo's "living sculptures," consisting of 20 metal rings that progressively decrease in diameter, rotating around a central axis.

Each ring has abstract starling-like forms laser-cut out of its surface, and each is equipped with its own micro-controller and motor -- but the smaller the ring, the faster the rotation. The kinetic work can be controlled via an app that allows the user to change the colour, speed, and direction of the rings, and was commissioned and recently installed in the headquarters of a London company.

The designers explain:

From below, the piece resembles a spirograph in motion, aligning to make mesmerizing concentric patterns. Each ring has its own counterweight, which allows the piece to be in perfect balance whatever the shape it is in.
When you look at a murmuration, the birds can seem randomly scattered across the sky—but then in a moment, they align to make a beautiful shape and pattern. Like this, the chandelier fleets in and out from seeming disorder to precise spiralling patterns and shapes.

It is quite a chandelier; is it as cool as a real live murmuration of starlings? Probably not. However, that doesn't take away from the obvious creative and technical skills needed to realize such a work of art. And ultimately, the point is not to blindly ape the real thing, but to draw attention to the fact that such an amazing thing exists in nature. See more over at Harvey & John.