michael jantzen

michael jantzen

Santa Fe, NM, US


The Protein Pavilion

The Protein Pavilion

Inside every cell in your body, billions of tiny molecular machines called proteins are hard at work. They allow your eyes to detect light, your neurons to fire, and the unique instructions in your DNA to be read. Think of them as the building blocks of life. Currently, there are over 200 million known proteins, with many more found every year. Each one has a unique 3D shape determining how it works and what it does.

If you could unravel a protein you would see that it’s like a string of beads made of a sequence of different chemicals known as amino acids. These sequences are assembled according to the genetic instructions of an organism’s DNA.

Attraction and repulsion between the 29 different types of amino acids cause the string to fold in a feat of spontaneous origami. This forms the intricate curls, loops, and pleats of a protein’s 3D structure.

We have discovered more about the world then any other civilization before us. But we have been stuck on this one problem, how do proteins fold up. How do proteins go from a string of amino acids to a compact shape that acts as a machine and drives life. Protein folding has now been solved through the use of AI.

The Protein Pavilion is a design proposal for a large structure that celebrates the research being done in this field of protein folding, and the inherent beauty of the protein molecule. Like many of my art/science projects, the Protein Pavilion was conceived of as a merging of public art, science, technology, and architecture.

The specific design of this painted steel structure was inspired by some of the elements often seen in images of folded 3D protein molecules. There was no attempt to visualize any specific molecule, but instead create a dynamic composite of elements that refer in general to the science of folded protein molecules.

The intention is to install a full size version of the Protein Pavilion at a major science center as a public exhibit. In this case, the pavilion would be equipped with comprehensive information about the science of protein folding that the visitors could access through their phones, while they walk around under the canopy of the Protein Pavilion.

Read more

Status: Unbuilt