Amsterdam-based studio Drift’s site-specific kinetic sculpture Meadow is inspired by how flowers open during the day and close at night. Advanced robotics create a field of blooms in perpetual motion, creating a meditative rhythm that encourages reflection about the world around us. COURTESY ORIOL TARRIDAS

The Denver Art Museum Explores Nature’s Eternal Sway over Architecture and Design

Biophilia: Nature Reimagined brings together 70 works that explore the relationship between nature and creativity.

Transcending passing fads, nature is one of the most potent sources of inspiration for architects and designers. Expanding on American biologist Edward O. Wilson’s theory that humans remain inextricably linked to nature regardless of their ongoing evolution, Biophilia: Nature Reimagined is a comprehensive survey exhibition presented at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) this summer. On view May 5 through August 11, the thematic show brings together 70 speculative and applicable works—everything from preparatory drawings, research videos, and material samples to finished pieces—by a roster of renowned contemporary talents including the Campana Brothers, gt2P, Iris van Herpen, Studio Gang, PELLE, and teamLab. 

Jessica Rosenkrantz’s Nervous System light is created out of 3D-printed nylon that translates the cellular growth patterns of branching leaf veins and ruffling flower petals into complex computer algorithms. The resulting chandelier casts intricate shadows that envelop the user. COURTESY NERVOUS SYSTEM
Tohono O’odham artist Terrol Dew Johnson crafts experimental baskets using the Sonoran Desert’s natural materials. Rooted in millennia-old Indigenous heritage, the Tohono O’odham Nation embraces traditions, stories, and sustainable practices tied to this sacred land. COURTESY PELLE

“The concept of biophilia is especially relevant today due to the increasingly urban and digital world we live in and our consequent detachment from the natural world,” says Darrin Alfred, DAM curator of architecture and design. “As tragic as the COVID-19 pandemic was, it dramatically increased public awareness of the profound human need for nature and added a greater sense of urgency to connect our communities with nature.”

Colorado’s dramatically varied landscape and the museum’s extensive decorative art and design collection serve as the perfect backdrop for this exhibit. The show is divided into three subsections addressing nature’s influence on patterns—even in a digital context—inherent processes, and its ability to define our emotional connections to place. 

Presented in the “Natural Analogs” section, Nervous System’s Floraform Chandelier takes its shape through differential growth. On view under the “Natural Systems” banner, Studio Drift’s famous kinetic Meadow sculpture evokes the budding of flowers. In the “Topophilia” section, Terrol Dew Johnson—a Tohono O’odham artist—teamed up with design studio Aranda\Lasch on Desert Paper. The project distills the rich material history of the Sonoran Desert as a manifestation of the links between land, resources, and Indigenous know-how. Overall, Biophilia: Nature Reimagined reveals the scope in which nature’s impact on the creative process is continually harnessed and reinterpreted. 

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