Redesigning Nature

The exhibition “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial”, organized with Cube Design Museum, presents the work of sixty-two international design teams

Tranceflora, 2015–19; Sputniko! (Hiromi Ozaki) (Japanese, b. 1985) and Masaya Kushino (Japanese, b. 1982), Another Farm (Tokyo, Japan), in collaboration with National Agricultural and Research Organization (NARO) (Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, founded 2006) and Hosoo (Kyoto, Japan, founded 1688); Glowing transgenic silk; Photo by So Morimoto

If climate changes and ecological crises are questioning the relationship between humans and natural world, who better than designers and creatives could enhance and reimagine the connection at the base? Ideas and solutions define the new Design Triennial by Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian museum in New York dedicated to historical and contemporary design, on theme “Nature“. The exhibition is co-organized with Cube design museum in Kerkrade, Netherlands.

Installation photo of “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial.” Photo: Matt Flynn

Designers but not only. The work of sixty-two international design teams is the result of the collaboration with scientists, engineers, advocates for social and environmental justice, artists, and philosophers.
The exhibition themes explore seven strategies that designers are using to collaborate with nature — to understand, remediate, simulate, salvage, nurture, augment, and facilitate. The outcomes are speculative or practical and reveal new materials, creative methods, and inventive technologies.

Bleached (II), 2018; Erez Nevi Pana (Israeli, active in Austria, b. 1983); Salt-crystallized loofah over a wooden structure; 77.5 x 55 x 56 cm (30 1/2 x 21 5/8 x 22 1/16 in.); © Friedman Benda and Erez Nevi Pana
Tree of 40 Fruit, 2008–ongoing; Sam van Aken (American, b. 1972); Cultivar tree with grafts; Dimensions variable; Courtesy of Sam van Aken and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

The Design Triennial embraces two large-scale, site-specific installations: The Tree of 40 Fruit by artist Sam Van Aken, created using centuries-old grafting techniques to preserve dozens of heirloom and rare fruit varieties threatened by industrial fruit production. And Petrified River by the architects of Ensamble Studio is a 40-foot-long concrete “river” bookended by a “pond” and “hill” that represent the transformation process of Manhattan from wild nature to an urbanized flattened landscape.

Installation view of Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. Photo by Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

Complementing the Design Triennial, Cooper Hewitt’s second-floor galleries will be devoted to a rotating presentation of objects from the museum’s expansive holdings of over 210,000 objects. Nature by Design: Selections from the Permanent Collection is now on view and celebrates nature as perhaps the longest-continuing and most global sources of design inspiration, spanning from the 16th century to the present.

Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial
10 May 2019 – 20 January 2020
2 E 91st St, New York