Previously On View: May 10, 2019 through January 20, 2020

See exhibitions currently on view.

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.

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.

Nature by Design

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.


An adaptation of Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial will be on view at the World Economic Forum’s 50th Annual Meeting, Jan. 21 through Jan. 24, 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. A collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the World Economic Forum, Partnering with Nature will be offered alongside panels, workshops, and other sessions organized by the WEF that address the ecological crisis and the Forum’s major focus on sustainability.

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.