Mechanical Marvels

Craftsmenship in Movement: Celebrating Design and the Heritage of Switzerland’s Masters of Mechanical Art

ECAL/University of Art and Design Lausanne, MAS in Design for Luxury & Craftsmanship x Mec-Art, 2020–2022 

Curator: Nicolas Le Moigne
Tutor: Fiona Kruger
Designers: Chia-Ling Chang, Ebony Lerandy, Sunny Oh, Charlotte Therre
Assistant: Clara Martin
Scenography: Charlotte Therre

Photography: Santiago Martine
Animation: Benjamin Muzzin

Graphic design: Chi-Long Trieu

Watchmaker: Denis Flageollet, Nicolas Court
Automaton maker: Francois Junod
Mechanical technician: Boris Masur
Wood marquetry maker: Bastien Chevalier
Cabinetmaker: Luigi Mondia

Read more at ECAL

Mechanimal Marvels, a mechanical installation project, is the result of a collaboration between selected design students from ECAL and Association Mec-Art (Pour la Mécanique d’Art) in the Swiss town of Sainte-Croix.

These five interactive mechanical installations are based on the mechanical know-how that illustrate the different local skills which were acknowledged by UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The installations combine visual or sound effects and deliver an immersive experience, inviting visitors to operate and bring the different automata to life by winding a simple crank.

The installations were exhibited at the Homo Faber Event 2022, “a public in a public exhibition of the most beautiful European crafts organized by the Michelangelo Foundation and held at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice (Italy) from April 1- to May 1, 2022, in Venice, Italy”.

This ambitious project is a real source of exchange and collaboration: the artisans share their expertise and know-how with the students, while the students challenge the artisans with thei innovative and often surprising creative ideas.– Nicolas Le Moigne


Dimensions: 75 L x 30 W x 160 H cm
Material: Titanium, carbon composite, brass, aluminium, stainless steel, lacquered wood

Read more at Homo Faber 

This automaton features a mechanical arm trying to touch a small bird. The bird’s shape and finish are reminiscent of the automata inside clocks and music boxes made in the region. Whenever the arm gets too close, the bird moves out of reach and immediately hides under a trap… only to reappear and for this game of hide-and-seek to begin again. This interaction between the two figures, which have been 3D-printed in titanium, is made possible simply by a series of cams: parts that transmit and transform the movement of a mechanism. The metal figures’ specific, asymmetrical shape produces a completely random rhythm which makes the scene all the more realistic and amusing.


Dimensions: 120 H x 80 Ø cm
Material: Wood veneer, Staron®, stainless steel, magnifying glass, brass, aluminium, copper

Read more at Homo Faber

This illustrative map, for the most part in wood marquetry, represents Sainte-Croix and L'Auberson. These two Swiss towns are centres for the development of watchmaking, art mechanics and music boxes. The surrounding relief – both towns are situated at an altitude of over 1,000 metres – has been modelled in three dimensions and milled from composite material. Turning a handle rotates the map on an off-centre axis and thus makes it possible to observe, through a magnifying glass, various emblematic locations. Each of these workshops, manufacturing facilities or institutions is represented by a half-sphere in polished steel, the shape and finish of which is used in certain timepieces manufactured in the region.


Dimensions: 165 H x 40 Ø cm
Material: Glass rods, stainless steel, carbon composite, aluminium, brass, lacquered wood

Read more at Homo Faber

This mobile echoes the ballerinas or animated automata that often accompany the melody of classical music boxes. The installation’s mechanism moves a carbon structure. Suspended from this structure are stained glass rods, themselves held in place by machined metal joints. These engineered parts enable random rotations or flips, thus creating ever-changing movements. The resulting scene can be likened to a choreography, performed to the sound of the rods knocking together by puppets – symbolised by materials that are rigid and technical, but also fragile and almost transparent.


Dimensions: 120 H x 60 Ø cm
Material: Maple, brass, steel, aluminium, lacquered wood

Read more at Homo Faber

This sound installation consists of a cylinder made from maple, a local wood used by the luthiers and harpists in Sainte-Croix. It moves towards then away from a music box, fixed above it. This movement, and the music, are made possible by a double mechanism driven by a weight. When the two parts come into contact, the wooden surface becomes a sound box, amplifying and allowing the melody to be clearly heard.


Dimensions: 200 L x 43 W x 165 H cm
Material: Plexiglass, aluminium, stainless steel, linen paper, brass, lacquered wood

Read more at Homo Faber

On one side of this two-part installation, three transparent cylinders enclose pistons that move up and down, much like the pistons in a car engine. The air displaced by this movement is propelled directly into steel tubes. On the other side, nine flax paper discs, balanced on metal rods, are set inside a second structure. The air produced by the mechanical movement travels through metal pipes and is released directly beneath the paper circles. Their various shapes and sizes impart a different rhythm to each one, bringing the scene to life with moving forms.

Homo Faber exhibition space

Installations details