How Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian creates a fully electric Porsche Taycan art car and a virtual pluralistic universe

Tuesday 9 May 2023  By Soho House

read the full article here


The No Passengers film series – a joint endeavour by Soho House and Porsche – highlights key creative visionaries who are leading the charge to push culture forward. Our first installment put the spotlight onto intersectional British designer, maker and artist, Mac Collins; our second delved into the world of the clothing pioneers behind boundary-breaking label, Vollebak: twin brothers Steve and Nick Tidball. Now, for our third and final film, we go deep inside the creation of an alternative universe with interdisciplinary multimedia designer and filmmaker, Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian. 


A decade spent working in the space industry saw Ben Hayoun-Stépanian direct a wide range of expeditions and programmes – such as the International Space Orchestra – both here on planet Earth and in space. She designed large-scale experiences, which included sending music to the moon and back as part of the nationwide festival Tour de Moon, and has founded free universities in nightclub basements with the University of the Underground in a bid to radically rethink a pluralistic universe. Ben Hayoun-Stépanian questions how things are made and how they can be developed in the next 100 years, from conceptualising an alternative world to building it with an industry-leading 3D artist in Unreal Engine. 


For No Passengers, she designed a fully electric Porsche Taycan with a fluorescent marbling pattern inspired by her textile training in Japan, which was guided by kimono master Takayuki Takahashi and his two brothers, with whom she worked on pattern designs for the late Issey Miyake. The grand finale sees Ben Hayoun-Stépanian driving her custom Porsche through the dusty surface of a 3D world of her own creation that has been inspired by former projects.


‘It has always been a dream of mine to consider what “perpetual motion” could be like, feel like or look like,’ she says of her response to the project. ‘Imagining the non-material textures of something that never slows or tires at the scale of the universe also presents us with our very own vulnerability and pushes us to reflect on our own human doings.’ 


No Passengers brings together Ben Hayoun-Stépanian’s experiences as a founder of experiences and platforms that support the creation of organised communities that build new beginnings informed by plurality, social and racial justice, solidarity and equity. While studying for her MA at the Royal College of Art, she developed an interest in theatre and filmmaking as well as space science – a combination which in turn led to the launch of her design agency, Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios, in 2009. 


‘With electric engineering, the new creative potentials are endless and I am very grateful to my partners in crime at Porsche and Soho House for giving me absolute carte blanche in this process,’ Ben Hayoun-Stépanian says. She credits both partners for ‘supporting my vision and for bringing such a talented diverse team together.’ 


‘For the final instalment of the No Passengers series, powered by Porsche, we were moving from the analogue and digital formats of the previous two films into the pinnacle of filmmaking technology and the ultra-digital world of virtual production,’ says Danny Chan, Head of Film & Motion at Soho House. ‘Dr Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian’s application of radical imagination and plurality into her practice as an experiential designer cements why she is the perfect collaborator for exploring a universe where the only limits are your imagination.’

Find out more about No Passengers and watch the final film here