Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial With Cube Design Museum

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Designers are forging meaningful connections with nature, inspired by its properties and resources. Their collaborative processes—working with nature and in teams across multiple disciplines—are optimistic responses at this moment when humans contend with the complexities and conditions of our planet. Compelled by a sense of urgency, designers look to nature as a guide and partner.

With projects ranging from experimental prototypes to consumer products, immersive installations, and architectural constructions, Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, co-organized with Cube design museum, presents the work of sixty-two international design teams. Collaborations involve scientists, engineers, advocates for social and environmental justice, artists, and philosophers. They are engaging with nature in innovative and ground-breaking ways, driven by a profound awareness of climate change and ecological crises as much as advances in science and technology.

A young woman with two small buns on top of her head looks at a giant projection of a rhinoceros. She is surrounded by a gauzy screen pulled back on either side to create an informal theater.

A visitor experiences The Substitute, a CG animation and visualization of the extinct male northern white rhino created by The Mill, with behavior based on research by DeepMind. Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, 2019. Photo by Thomas Loof.

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. These provocations and solutions put forth by today’s extraordinary design teams serve as encouragement for an enduring and more respectful partnership with nature.

Curatorial teams from both museums developed the exhibition content, including Cooper Hewitt’s Caitlin Condell, associate curator and head of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design; Andrea Lipps, associate curator of contemporary design; Matilda McQuaid, deputy director of curatorial and head of Textiles; and Caroline O’Connell, curatorial assistant; and Cube’s Gene Bertrand, program and development director; and Hans Gubbels, director of Cube.

A woman with a blonde bob wearing a white jacked is surrounded by oversized incandescent lightbulbs that hang from the ceiling by strings. She is in the galleries of Cooper Hewitt.

A visitor experiences Curiosity Cloud designed by mischer’traxler studio. Photo by Thomas Loof.

Curator-led Tours

Our curators welcome you to ask them anything about Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. Tours are complimentary with museum admission and take place every Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.

SPECIAL INSTALLATIONS

Cooper Hewitt’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden will feature two large-scale, site-specific installations unique to the U.S. presentation of the Design Triennial. The Tree of 40 Fruit by artist Sam Van Aken will blossom with apples, pears, plums, peaches, cherries, and apricots. The tree is like a beautiful bouquet, created using centuries-old grafting techniques to preserve dozens of heirloom and rare fruit varieties threatened by industrial fruit production. 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. It is a petrified metaphor for the rich landscape that was once Mannahatta or “island of many hills.”

A young man and woman admire a stone sculpture in Cooper Hewitt's garden. They are standing behind the sculpture, which is about as tall as their shoulders.

Ensamble Studio’s Petrified River is a sculpture installed in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden as part of Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial

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 by Design features extraordinary textiles, furniture, pattern books, jewelry and more to show how designers have interpreted nature’s rich beauty and complex science.

Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial is made possible by support from The Ainslie Foundation. Additional support is provided by Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee, the August Heckscher Exhibition Fund, the Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund, and the Creative Industries Fund NL.

Funding is also provided by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York as part of the Dutch Culture USA program, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Image of Dr. Max Liboiron looking directly at camera. She has shaved hair on the sides and the top of her hair is pulled back. Her grin is small, but joyful, and her eyes show a smile behind wireframe glasses.
Dr. Max Liboiron’s “BabyLegs”
Max Liboiron is a feminist environmental scientist, science and technology studies (STS) scholar, and activist. As an Assistant Professor in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Liboiron directs Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist, anti-colonial laboratory that specializes in grassroots environmental monitoring of marine plastic pollution. Liboiron’s STS work focuses on how invisible...
image of a panel discussion at Cooper Hewitt, with audience members looking on and a blonde woman at the podium
Design Talk | Garden of Secrets
In this program, experts discuss biomimicry and biophilia and how designs inspired by the natural world contribute to humanity, moderated by Lana Sutherland, CEO & Co-Founder of TEALEAVES. The talk is part of Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, an exhibition co-organized with Cube design museum in the Netherlands featuring more than 60 groundbreaking works from designers...
Image from a panel discussion at Cooper Hewitt. Three women sit on a stage, holding microphones.
Nature Salons: Materials of the Anthropocene
Designers Shahar Livne and Charlotte McCurdy in conversation with Caitlin Condell, Associate Curator and Head of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design. Join us for a discussion exploring the ways in which designers consider the abundance of materials available to them in the 21st century. As the boundary between ‘synthetic’ and ‘natural’ materials becomes increasingly blurry,...
Image of panelists on the stage at Cooper Hewitt, from Ensamble Studios and from Cave architects. The people on the left are in a black suit and vibrant blue woman's suit coat. The two no the right wear colorful African/Kenyan dress, in royal blue and orange patterned.
Nature Salons: Nature of Architecture
Designers from Ensamble Studio and CAVE Bureau in conversation with Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Curatorial Director.
image from Cooper Hewitt triennial nature salon panel discussion with Curator Andrea Lipps
Nature Salons: Encouraging Growth
Talk on What role does biological growth play in 21st-century design?
Digital rendering of a vertical book cover. The title, in large, black letters, that spans four lines reads "Nature: Collaborations in Design". The words are a blend of a serif and a san serif typeface. The background is white. Within the text of the title, two amoeba-like shapes overlap. One of these shapes is a blurry blend of red, orange, and blue. At the bottom of the cover reads "Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial / co-organized with Cube design museum".
Nature: Collaborations in Design
With design, we have the ability to become active agents in our relationship with nature. Nature: Collaborations in Design is a companion to the exhibition Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, co-organized with Cube design museum.