The Circle of Benefactors is a group of donors and charity funders whose support is making a profound and wide-ranging impact at Imperial College London. Philanthropy brings world-leading researchers together to work on challenges in health, the environment and business, empowering generations of Imperial students to thrive and supports engagement initiatives that connect people with the excitement of science and technology.
The new installation, located in the reception area of Imperial’s Kensington campus, was designed by Pentagram to celebrate the impact of philanthropy at Imperial and recognise some of the most generous donors and charity funders.
The project began with Jon Marshall and Domenic Lippa’s team collaborating on ideas that formed part of the joint proposal. From the outset, Pentagram suggested that this was an opportunity for Imperial College London to install something much more interesting than a traditional donor wall.
Jon and Domenic organised a series of interviews with various stakeholders from within the college to help define the overall ambition for the project. It was important to use this opportunity not just to reflect the philanthropy of individuals and organisations but also to help tell the Imperial story.
A series of workshops then took place to bring the ideas to life. Both teams wanted to create an installation that would be unique to Imperial College, but that could also be developed for its other sites or even for individual recognition opportunities. There was also a requirement for whatever was created to grow as the Circle of Benefactors grew.
The installation was inspired by the cellular structures of a living organism, with each cell distinct from, yet in relation to, those around it. The design team felt this was analogous to how Imperial focuses both on the individual and on the big picture, and the importance of philanthropy in achieving that.
The cells are manufactured as roundels of recycled glass supported in a precision-engineered steel framework. The modular nature of the framework will allow the installation to grow over time as new cells are added. The glass roundels were produced in six colours, and hand blown into wooden moulds in three sizes. Each of the roundels bears the name of one of the members of the Circle of Benefactors. The installation is double-sided and can be appreciated from outside the building as well.
Pentagram was conscious of making a long-lasting installation for Imperial whilst minimising its environmental footprint. The metalwork was made by Fish Fabrications, who are committed to reducing the environmental impact of their business, sourcing recycled and UK material and removing plastic from their supply chain. The glass was made by Michael Ruh Studio, the only glassmaker in the UK working with 100% recycled glass.
Jon, Domenic and their teams worked closely with the Imperial College project team to develop their idea into something sustainable and scalable, that would also have impact and recognition within the main Imperial College London reception environment.