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.

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.

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.