Ancient yogis believed that every life came with a finite number of breaths, a limitation that made each inhalation more valuable than the rarest diamond. To show its leadership in the respiratory sciences – the very study of breathing itself – at the 2016 American Thoracic Society Annual Meeting, Genentech Inc. and its exhibit house, Taylor Manufacturing Industries Inc. (The Taylor Group), added an element that was as vital to the company's booth as the lungs themselves are to the human body. "Genentech wanted a visual centerpiece," said Alph Leydon, executive vice president for The Taylor Group. "It had to be both a work of art and of science."
Waiting to Exhale
Made of spandex stretched over an aluminum frame, Genentech Inc's 30-by-15-foot Breathing Wall inhaled and exhaled thanks to 72 microprocessor-controlled motors while a projector cast imagery of human lungs on the fabric.
The resulting kinetic installation, which was placed along the back wall of the exhibit, was dubbed the Breathing Wall. Measuring 30-by-15 feet, the $180,000 element boasted a skin of spandex stretched over an aluminum frame set on a substructure of cabinets. These cabinets housed 72 microprocessor-controlled linear actuators – motors similar to those that control hospital beds – driven by a low-voltage power supply.
Attendees who had worked their way through the 5,800-square-foot exhibit's informational and product areas relaxed on faux-leather cushions and watched the 1,300-pound modular installation come alive. The motors expanded the spandex epidermis to mimic the rhythm of restful breathing, while discreet speakers emitted the sounds of peaceful respiration. Nearby a digital projector ran a sequence of six images of stylized human lungs on top of the rising and falling fabric.
Hailing the wall as "a meditative experience," one Exhibit Design Awards judge said, "Once you sat down in front of the wall, they had you." A welcome respite from the racket of the show floor, Genentech's award-winning wall became a matter of life and breath for attendees. E