Liverpool, UK

The Dynamic Universe

‘The Dynamic Universe’ confronted the fear of the unknown with cutting-edge scientific knowledge, projecting images from one of the most sophisticated telescopes in the world directly into Somerset House.

The sheer scale of the universe can often provoke a sense of unease or fear of the unknown, as we struggle to grasp the fundamental nature of the cosmos. Similarly, the rise of autonomous technologies forces us to question our place in the world and prompts the disquieting thought that we may soon be superseded. Liverpool’s installation offered an alternative to such existential anxieties, showing how we can mitigate fear with knowledge, and replace unease with awe and wonder.

The Liverpool Telescope is one of the largest fully robotic telescopes in the world. Based in La Palma in the Canary Islands, it observes autonomously – which means it decides what it’s going to look at next. For London Design Biennale, the night sky of La Palma was beamed into Somerset House, with large-scale projections and time-lapse views of nebulae and galaxies. Bean bags were placed on the floor so that visitors relaxed, allowing themselves to be drawn into the infinite depths of the cosmos. “The universe is a complex, ever-changing place,” said Professor Andrew Newsam from Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool. “But by bringing together advanced mechanical and optical design, autonomous robotics, and digital communications, a new generation of astronomical instruments are allowing astronomers to explore those changes in unprecedented detail.”

The aim was not to diminish our emotional responses to the immensity of the universe, Professor Newsam added, but to celebrate them. “It is tempting to look at cutting-edge scientific instruments as divorced from emotional context and driven entirely by hard technological necessities. However, the urge to build such instruments and discover more about the universe around us has a deeply emotional seed.”

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Photography: Ed Reeve


Administering Body:

Liverpool John Moores University

Design Team:

Professor Nigel Weatherill, Professor Ahmed Al-Shamma’a, Professor Andrew Newsam


Professor Andrew Newsam

2018 Exhibitors