• Cabinet of Future Fossils

    The Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils
    philadelphia PENNSYLVANIA

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    jenny e. SABIN: A greenhouse for the 21st century stands in the American Philosophical Society’s (APS) garden. An outgrowth of the Museum’s current exhibition, it was conceived by artist and architectural designer Jenny Sabin. Her ecologically savvy structure re-envisions greenhouse architecture using digital design tools. It is also a striking work of art.

    Made of recycled and recyclable materials, the 52’-long structure has no glass and requires no heat. It is supported by curving, structural ribs that hold 110 translucent, jewel-toned cold frames (mini-greenhouses) filled with edible and ornamental plants. The 2’ x 1’ x 1’ cold frames are removable and portable, intended for winter gardening in small urban spaces.

    The “Cabinet of Future Fossils” inside the Greenhouse displays digitally produced and 3D printed ceramic artifacts inspired by nature, complexity and generative design processes. But they are not quite recognizable. Like scientists perplexed by the fossil bones of animals who lived a long time ago, Sabin wryly imagines a future era when people might be equally puzzled by these “fossil” remnants of a curious era in digital architecture and computational design.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    jS: Taking inspiration from the artifacts and themes present in the exhibition, Of Elephants and Roses: Encounters with French Natural History, 1790-1830, The Greenhouse & Cabinet of Future Fossils attempts to gather, digest, and disseminate information about nature while also incorporating cutting edge design and fabrication techniques to ultimately produce a greenhouse of the future. Central to these interests, is the topic of transformation operating at three distinct time scales and at three stages within the design process. The first involves research into the emergent spatial concepts of the field and the cabinet as present in the means and methods undertaken to collect and study scientific data during the 19th century. The second mode of transformation operates at the stage of pure mathematical investigation, an unraveling of a 3-8 torus knot through time. These knot morphologies were chosen for two reasons. The first relates the geometric behavior of an unraveling knot to the desired spatial and formal shift in the Greenhouse from field to cabinet. The second highlights an abstract and synthetic formal relationship between the configuration of the unraveling knot and the internal structures and relationships revealed in the giant vertebrates that were all the rage during the 19th century. The primary geometrical system of the Greenhouse structure is generated by a select group of profile curves from the unraveling mathematical knots that in turn convey a spatial and formal transformation as visitors move from the exterior to the interior. Finally, the interior gallery under the vine canopy houses the Cabinet of Future Fossils, a modular system holding digitally generated and newly fabricated ceramic and 3D printed artifacts inspired by nature and unusual processes.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    jS: I was reading Dorinda Outram, “New Spaces in Natural History,” in Cultures of Natural History, ed. Nicholas Jardine, James A. Secord, and Emma C. Spary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. I attended several of the amazing experimental music performances at IRCAM Centre Pompidou as part of the annual Agora Festival in Paris. In the studio, my incredible designers kept a steady stream of good tunes playing. We all love Radiohead.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    jS: Geoffrey Mann, David Bowen, Mette Ramsgard Thomsen.

    Additional credits and notes: Jenny Sabin, Assistant Professor in the College of Architecture, Art & Planning at Cornell University, received a 2010 Pew Fellowship for her work at the forefront of an architectural practice that applies insights and theories from nature and science to the design of material structures.

    The Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils was Commissioned by the American Philosophical Society Museum, funded by Heritage Philadelphia Program, a program of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

    Consulting Engineer: Tristan Simmonds
    Fabricator: Mikael Avery, Draft Works LLC

    Design and Production Team: Mikael Avery, James Fleet Hower, Jason Jackson, Anooshey Rahim, Kathryn Rufe, Meagan Whetstone

    In kind 3-D printing sponsorship provided by ZCorp



    Elephants & Roses