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Utopian lab: Tissue engineered luxuries

Suggesting a world where you could in the future be wearing clothing fashioned from your own cells, Tissue engineered luxuries asks the question “does the potential to manipulate living organisms to grow future products represent a true utopian pursuit?” 

Exploring current research into growing future high-end fashion in the laboratory, Tissue engineered luxuries showcased in-progress experiments alongside propositions for what we may be able to grow in years to come. Presented as a fashion showroom counter, the installation introduced visitors to current research from labs at King's College, and asked them whether they would buy their own cultured couture. 

The goal of tissue engineering technology is to grow replacement tissues, and ultimately organs, to repair the body. Tissue engineered luxuries offered up a radically different set of applications, exploring possible ways that the techniques might be harnessed to grow goods such as ethical ivory or cruelty free leather.The installation explored whether the use of a technology, first and foremost designed to save lives, might also be acceptable for use in a commercial field. 

In addition to the physical pieces on display, objects that present a potential future where fashion is grown and not made, there was a live project website. This website showcased all the research behind the current work in the lab, whilst also projecting into the future – offering a fictitious ecommerce site where visitors can design and order their ideal cultured couture pieces. Through this online platform audience members were asked to engage with the science of tissue engineering and leave feedback on how they felt about its use, both for regenerative medicine purposes and future commercial applications.

Project lead

Amy Congdon is a designer, interested in exploring the cross-overs between design and science. Amy leads Studio Amy Congdon, based in London, and is currently undertaking a part-time practice based PhD at Central Saint Martins with the Design and Living Systems Lab, run by Professor Carole Collet.

Utopian lab

This project was part of the Utopian lab, a contemporary glimpse of the Health Faculties at King’s College London. The crusade to understand, save and compliment the human body and mind was the spirit of Utopia itself, uniting cultures, defining humanity and standing on the shoulders of giants.

Rotating through the different stories of present day work day work being carried out across the Health Faculties at King’s College London, Utopian lab was a snapshot of the future with roots firmly planted in King’s College Hospital’s past: a workhouse on the Strand that was propelled to notoriety by the surgery work of Joseph Lister in the late 19th century. 

‘I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions and into actions which bring results’ – Florence Nightingale



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