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Variegation Index Jason Bruges Studio

Variegation Index is an interactive digital artwork created for British Land. The original brief asked for an intervention that would revitalise the lobby at 20 Triton Street in London to create a more inviting, social environment that would encourage the general public to enter and use the space. 

The resulting artwork attempts to disrupt the boundary between public and private space by using biomimicry to increase the permeability between outside and inside. In an exploration of the link between nature and wellbeing, Variegation Index softens the existing corporate interior with 293 digital plant cells that cascade across the wall and expand the idea of plants giving feedback to their environment through photosynthesis.

Taking inspiration from NDVI cameras, a specialised system that farmers use to monitor the health of their crops, an array of plants placed below the artwork are discreetly being ‘observed’. Our custom-built version of the camera uses a combination of infrared and RGB light to measure chlorophyll levels within the leaves. This information is then translated into a dual-perspective real-time data visualisation appearing as an oscillating language of light and numbers across the cellular canvas within the lobby. The movement of light signifies the transfer of energy and nutrients in the leaves and visibly swings between a vivid, fast display in bright daylight and a dim, slower pattern during grey spells and night-time.

The primary challenge was to develop a bespoke system that synchronises all the component processes so the moments of reading and translating data happen simultaneously. JBS have a long history of creating artworks that take inspiration from the natural world. Variegation Index takes this a step further and is the first JBS artwork to directly incorporate living material. Making the invisible process of photosynthesis visible, the artwork deepens our connection with plants and breathes life into the lobby.

Variegation Index sets a precedent for art that deliberately mimics biological and environmental systems to enhance wellbeing. The final result provides a more welcoming, social lobby that has a sense of community and offers some respite and tranquillity within the heart of London.

Photography: James Medcraft