UCL News


UCL in the News: Sound of jelly wobbling recorded for architects' competition

2 July 2008

Roger Highfield, 'Daily Telegraph'  The sound of a jelly wobbling has been captured for the first time to mark a unique celebration that blends the staple of childhood parties with architecture, art and science.

The icky sticky sound of the dessert, known as jello in North America, was recorded at UCL for a soundtrack that will be used at the end of the week in a bizarre "architectural jelly banquet" where leading firms of architects will compete for recognition of their creative skills with this unusual medium. …

Prof Jonathan Ashmore, UCL Ear Institute, adds: "Ear experts have been studying jelly for decades, for collagen - one of the starting ingredients of jelly - makes up the critical components of the inner ear. The way that collagen wobbles on a very small scale is what allows us to hear different notes." …

The entries will be judged on innovation, aesthetics and "wobble factor", according to Prof Stephen Gage, UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, one of the judges.

He says: "As babies, we first learn about our world by touching it and putting bits of it in our mouth. Part of our subconscious appreciation of shape may well be a dim memory of how it might feel in our mouth. Thus, a dome is round and coolly satisfying, while a pointed building is like a sharp and dangerous knife. Jelly architecture returns architecture to the mouth, where we can once again taste it." …

Dr Andrea Sella, a UCL chemist who is able to put stripes on jellies, is in awe of the molecular structure of these vibrant performers: "Gels are amazing materials, not quite solid, not quite liquid. They form when a loose network of molecular chains cross-link, with the intervening spaces filling with water or another solvent." …

Although their wobbliness, transparency, and softness is one of the key attractions in cooking, Dr Sella adds that materials chemists use gels to make interesting new ceramics. Soaps are used to form 3-D structures embedded in the gel.

"When such gels are fired in a furnace, they burn to ceramics imprinted with the hollow image of the soap, yielding structured materials that are finding growing use in catalysis, solar cells, batteries, and other products."