Heart of glass

Heart of glass

This project questions the potential for glass in contemporary art and design to adopt a pragmatic approach with a view to producing extraordinary results. This research project also offers a cutting- edge model in the field of creative research, which places students at the heart of the process.

Research project (2015)

Given the particular qualities of glass, the multiple shapes it can take and its many potential applications to art, crafts and industry, the Heart of Glass project has chosen to experiment with this material and explore new opportunities for creating and designing products.
This project was partly driven by a need to question certain modes of production, both in industry and in the crafts, that are central to the concerns of young designers today. This research has also generated productive links between practical experimentation, the evaluation of the findings of these experiments and their ultimate dissemination.
Finally, leaving aside the issues involved in project development itself, Heart of Glass offers a potential model for research-creation in design, based on an innovative, forward-looking approach.

The objectives of the project included:

The research team first identified, through a review of the literature and the potential partnerships, the best opportunities available for experimenting with new approaches in designing products in glass.
On the basis of this, they identified three key themes:

Initially, these themes gave rise to practical workshops for students and assistants in the Master’s degree in Product Design, supervised by professors and lecturers from ECAL.
Plan B: this work on industrial technologies led to the creation of five prototypes that illustrated the potential of each of the procedures used. Technical data sheets explained their working principles.
​​​​​Meisenthal: six prototypes were created during a workshop held at CIAV (Centre International d’Art Verrier). They were each supported by fact sheets that describe the manufacturing process.
Mould Machine: in the course of a workshop covering the forming of original moulds, representative samples of the most promising techniques were selected. Different fact sheets were drawn up identifying the properties of each material tested.
​​​​​At a later stage, the most promising findings from each workshop were selected, and representative items were produced by practitioners from product design-related disciplines for the final project exhibition.

The Heart of Glass project allowed us to develop an entire range of original tools and procedures, and consequently a very large number of samples that could serve as sources of inspiration for the design of future glass objects.
A wide selection of the most interesting pieces was presented at the exhibition that marked the closure of the project. They can also be viewed on the website.
In the context of this research-creation project and in accordance with the model developed by ECAL, the use of experimental workshops based on tightly defined complementary themes has proved to be extremely effective in developing original, innovative artefacts.
Extreme care went into workshop organisation to ensure a clear fit between objectives and findings: the tools and procedures that were developed broadly met our expectations and the resulting datasheets offered a first, promising attempt to record and disseminate these experiments.
Heart of Glass is the first of a series of research-creation projects focusing on design and materials. To its credit, this first experiment led to very important discussions about the definition of research in design and how it could be included within a master’s degree curriculum. The publication that grew out of the project offers clear evidence, among other things, of this discussion.

Main applicant

ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne
Augustin Scott de Martinville  (project leader)

Research team

Camille Blin , Brynjar Sigurðarson , Eleonora Castellarin

Visiting lecturers

Ronan Bouroullec, Matteo Gonet Cyril Porchet, Mathieu Rivier, Pauline Saglio, Baker Wardlaw


Baccarat, CIAV Meisenthal, Matteo Gonet/Glassworks


november 2012 – february 2015

Supported by

ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne
Strategic fund of the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (HES-SO RCDAV)


Heart of Glass, ELAC (Espace Lausannois d’Art Contemporain), Renens, 22.01–20.02.2015.
Heart of Glass, WantedDesign, Brooklyn, New York, 7–17.05.2015.


Augustin Scott de Martinville (ed.), Heart of Glass, ECAL, Renens 2015. Prize

The project was nominated for the 2015–2016 Design Preis Schweiz in the ‘Research’ category.

Exhibition spring 2015 Galerie l’elac 5, avenue du Temple CH-1020 Renens © ECAL/Axel Crettenand
RaD,  Heart glass
© ECAL / Jeremy Ayer
RaD,  Heart glass
© ECAL / Jeremy Ayer
RaD,  Heart glass
© ECAL / Jeremy Ayer
RaD,  Heart glass
© ECAL / Jeremy Ayer


RaD,  Heart glass
© ECAL / Jeremy Ayer
RaD,  Heart glass
© ECAL / Jeremy Ayer