If you want to get my attention, put the word garden in the title of a talk, lecture, or panel discussion. Add a sentence or two about an optimistic view of our future; a collaborative effort to look at nature as a guide and partner and sign me up. Garden of Secrets at the Cooper Hewitt Museum on Saturday, May 18 was advertised as a program for “participants to learn more about biomimicry and biophilia and how designs inspired by the natural world contribute to humanity.” Part I of the afternoon, began with a very abbreviated tour of Cooper Hewitt and Cube Museum Projects for 2019 Design Triennial. The theme of the design Triennial is NATURE: “exploring design’s ability to address critical issues surrounding nature, climate and the environment”.
After the brief tour, we went downstairs to the lecture room to hear from: Sam Van Aken, Associate Professor at Syracuse University and designer of the Tree of 40 Fruit, Patrick Lewis, Director, University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Barbara A. Ambrose, Ph.D., Director of Laboratory Research, Editor, Botanical Review, The New York Botanical Garden. Each of speakers gave a brief overview of their work. Lana Sutherland, CEO & Co-Founder of TEALEAVES engaged the speakers in a conversation.
Sam Aiken has installed The Tree of 40 Fruit in a container in the garden of Cooper Hewitt. The Tree of 40 Fruit will blossom with apples, pears, plums, peaches, cherries, and apricots. The tree is created usin grafting techniques to preserve dozens of heirloom and rare fruit varieties threatened by industrial fruit production. If you want to more of The Tree of 40 Fruit visit Governors Island where there are 50 trees. Sam Aiken pointed out that the trees are a kind of agricultural history. Many of the varieties of stone fruit on the trees are now extinct.
Patrick Lewis focused his remarks on innovation, adaption and the incredible resilience of plants. One example “the stone plant” otherwise knows as Lithops. These plants grow in hospitable areas with limited water and nutrients.
How can they survive?
Lithops are a type of South African “living stone,” a mostly underground plant that lives in extremely dry conditions. This underground life makes it difficult to get enough sun to photosynthesize while still conserving as much water as possible. Lithops has many adaptations to help it do just this, including a top surface with “windows” of translucent pockets that allows light penetration to photosynthetic tissues deep within the subterranean leaf. Cleverly, these windows also have sunscreen properties to block out harmful UV light.
Another adaption: The Cloud Forest = Nature’s Terrarium. The sun has a hard time breaking through thick wall of clouds. This causes a slower rate of evaporation; this provides plants with a lot of moisture. This moisture promotes a huge amount of biodiversity. Climate Change is expected to image the cloud forests. Low level cloud coverage will be reduced impacting the plants and forests hydrological cycle.
John Bartram was appointed Royal Botanist for North America by King George III in 1765. In the same year John Bartram and his son William discovered the frankliana tree growing along the banks of Altamaha River in southeastern Georgia. The tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803. Amazingly it is still in cultivation from the seeds collected by Bartram.
For this raincoat, Charlotte McCurdy created a petroleum-free algae-based plastic that is carbon negative. Currently, the majority of plastic materials are made from fossil fuels, or stores of carbon created by “ancient sunlight.” Instead, McCurdy encourages the use of new materials that metabolize atmospheric carbon, such as quickly grown plant matter. – from the Cooper Hewitt Museum
The afternoon ended with a viewing of the world premiere of a new documentary (25 min.), The Garden of Secrets produced by TEALEAVES. “A garden isn’t just a garden filled with plants – it is a garden of ideas. The Garden of Secrets explores biophilia, biomimicry and how botanical gardens, as idea libraries, house a wealth of solutions to the challenges that face our world today. Living in such difficult times, spending the afternoon filled with hope was exhilarating, invigorating and refreshing.
Nature – Cooper Hewitt DesignTriennal
Nature by Design: Selections from the Permanent Collection
To accompany the special exhibition, Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, Nature by Design presents a rotating selection of extraordinary design drawn from Cooper Hewitt’s collection of over 210,000 objects, inviting visitors to discover how nature and design have intersected in the past and continue to converge in our world.
Explore + Tour: Nature
June 6, 2019
9AM – 4 PM
Discover the power of design in connecting advances in science, technology, engineering, and math. Cooper Hewitt’s latest exhibition, Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, showcases the groundbreaking ways designers are engaging with nature. In this program, educators will tour the exhibition and work with Dr. Max Liboiron, creator of BabyLegs