Eco Lab

Collaboration with Jeremy King and Chris Corbin

In 2001, Charlotte Skene Catling conceived of, and became a director of Eco Lab PLC, a pioneering holistic organic food, nutrition, beauty product and clothing project based on the idea of ‘food as medicine’. She designed the brand, interior, packaging and logo. Eco Lab grew from investigating ecological issues; from the local sourcing and production of food to the distribution and enjoyment of it. Three years of research working with the Institute of Nutrition (ION), focused on the physiological impact of food on the body, with each ingredient carefully analysed before being combined by Michelin starred executive chef Alexis Gauthier.

The key aim was to visualise environmental issues and make them seductive and aspirational. The space was an exploration of how all the senses can be addressed through architecture. The interiors used only natural, green and recycled materials, but use lighting, digital printing, surface and smell to create a new aesthetic with an ideology. The 2,000 square foot flagship store was on Poland Street in Soho, London, a light airy space with a wall of pale, honed green onyx, marble floors and bespoke refrigerators with their fan systems relocated to minimise sound.

An experimental garden in Somerset grew ingredients from seeds supplied by the French company, Terre de Semences, who worked in organic and biodynamic agriculture ‘For the Protection of Biodiversity’. They collected nearly 1,400 varieties or species of vegetable, grain, condiment and floral plants: 300 varieties of tomatoes of all colours, 120 varieties of lettuce, 80 varieties of squash and 120 varieties of peppers.

The ground floor was a cafe and meeting space, while the basement was used for oxygen treatments, juicing, vitamins and other nutritional supplements, beauty products and organic ‘eco’ clothing. The ingredients of the beauty products were all food grade on the principle that what you put on your body enters your blood stream. Collaborations with students from the Royal College of Art led to unique embroidered staff uniforms and a ‘digital wallpaper’ at the rear of the space, where flowers scanned from the Somerset gardens were turned into exuberant compositions. The addition of insects and small creatures made each panel unique, and strips of mirror expanded the space through infinite reflection.