Urban Sputnik is a joint project between Vanessa Harden and Dr. Dominic Southgate in collaboration with Dr. Roberto Trotta, Professor Andrew Jaffe and Dr. David Clements from Imperial College London’s Astrophysics Group.

Urban Sputnik is a pair of sculptures that developed as a novel way to express the frontiers of astrophysical research in a non-technical, more inclusive way, which uses art and design as its primary language. The aim of this project is to provide a sensorial environment in an urban setting with otherwise limited visibility of astronomical bodies. These pieces offer a metaphorical sensory experience connecting the user with distant cosmological phenomena that cannot otherwise be directly perceived nor experienced on a human scale.

The first piece plunges the user into an expanding universe with redshifted objects, by inviting them to contemplate the impact of redshift on distant galaxies. A series of tubes are arranged around a central dome, which provides a representation for our vantage point on the universe.

The second piece addresses the concept of the geometry of the universe by providing a visual interpretation of a hyperbolic (open) universe that challenges the user’s assumptions about the shape and relative size of the cosmos.

Urban Sputnik was generously funded by the STFC.