Designing the Impossible

Designing the Impossible

Ph.D. candidate Nelly Ben Hayoun was featured in a Radio 4 programme (broadvast on Thursday, 5 September 2013) concerning her work with the International Space Orchestra. You can listen to the episode on BBC iPlayer. The programme’s description follows below.

How would you like to experience a Soyuz rocket launch or a volcanic eruption in your living room? Could you create dark energy in your kitchen sink? Perhaps you dream of becoming an astronaut?

Then enter the world of Nelly Ben Hayoun, acclaimed designer of fantasy experiences, who brings the thrill of cutting edge science within the reach of ordinary people.

Nelly is a graduate of the Royal College of Art’s groundbreaking Design Interactions course – one of a new breed of designers who use immersive experiences to stimulate debates about what sort of future we want for ourselves as the limits of technology and science extend ever further.

She plans her experiences like a circus showman, charting precisely the emotional trajectory through which she wants to lead her audiences. Each project is more ambitious than the last, each seemingly impossible at the outset.

For example, how do you share the high drama of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing? Nelly’s idea was to create an opera based on transcripts from the mission control room and have it performed by the world’s first International Space Orchestra – made up of NASA space scientists and lunar mission veterans. Astonishingly she pulled it off – the epic Ground Control Opera had its first performance in September 2012. Since then, she has also managed to arrange for a recording of the performance to be broadcast in space.

And Nelly Ben Hayoun’s next impossible project? To become an astronaut, of course.

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