Walter Lilly’s MRC LMS hoarding art created in collaboration with neighbouring school

At Walter Lilly, working together with and making a positive contribution to the local communities in which our sites are located is always important. It also matters to our clients, which is why the engagement team of the Medical Research Council (MRC) London Institute of Medical Sciences (LMS) reached out to their neighbouring school at the very start of our work together.

In 2019, the LMS team began a collaborative project with students of the Ark Burlington Danes Academy – to create an innovative, interactive, hoarding design. The length of the hoarding that runs along the Academy’s playing field provides the perfect canvas for a design which reflects both the scientific research of the LMS and the student community at the school. This ‘Wall of Variables’ was brought to life by artist, Julia Vogl.

The idea behind the hoarding design emerged from workshops at the school where students took part in activities which encouraged them to reflect on whether traits they possess are controlled by their genes or by their environment. This is a theme that runs through much of the research that takes place at LMS, and which will continue in the Institute’s new building. The students inspired four final multiple choice questions, the answer to which would form the basis of the artistic concept behind the hoarding project.

The design consists of DNA helices, and reflects LMS research in genetics and epigenetics, as well as the C.elegans worm – the first multicellular organism to have its entire genome sequenced, or de-coded. In March 2020, each student answered the multiple choice questions generated during the workshops. The answers they gave determined where on the hoarding they painted, the colours they used and the patterns that make up the helix. The height of each helix also matched that of each student artist that painted it. Over three hundred Year 7, 8 and 9 students from Ark Burlington Danes Academy contributed to the hoarding.

The multiple choice questions were:
• Are you a macro or micro thinker?
• What is key to your future health?
• What is science to you?
• What is your go-to snack?

The resulting hoarding design is a striking visualisation of this data, take a look at the creation in this video.

Each student’s helix is unique, based on their responses and their height. By looking at each helix it is possible to ‘decode’ the data that was used to create it. The engagement team at the LMS are hoping to use this decoded date in further engagement with the school, for example through co-creation of lesson plans and resources in the future.

As well as giving the students a way to begin to understand what it is that scientists at the LMS do, the hoarding facilitates engagement between these young stakeholders and the exciting construction project taking place within their community. We hope their interest will continue as they watch the building take shape over the coming months and years.

Find out more about the MRC LMS project here.

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