Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future FossilsPhiladelphia, United States
A large Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils designed by designer and artist Jenny Sabin of Cornell University and the Jenny Sabin Studio now stands in the APS Thomas Jefferson Garden. The centerpiece of five innovative APS Museum projects (The Greenhouse Projects), this cutting-edge structure—the first of its kind—reinvents the greenhouse ...read more
A large Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils designed by designer and artist Jenny Sabin of Cornell University and the Jenny Sabin Studio now stands in the APS Thomas Jefferson Garden. The centerpiece of five innovative APS Museum projects (The Greenhouse Projects), this cutting-edge structure—the first of its kind—reinvents the greenhouse using digital architectural tools. It is on display from September 9 through December 3, 2011.
Like all of the five projects, Sabin’s greenhouse references aspects of the Museum’s current exhibition, Of Elephants & Roses: Encounters with French Natural History, 1790-1830, and interprets the show through a contemporary lens. The structure itself, including the Cabinet, is inspired by two different “breeds” of naturalists in post-Revolutionary France. One was the explorer-naturalist who traveled the world in search of exotic flora and fauna; the other was the stay-at-home laboratory scientist who studied the materials gathered by others.
Sabin creates both closed and open areas in her structure, alluding to the different kinds of spaces used by these naturalists. Visitors enter on a “boardwalk” that leads into a more enclosed space. There they discover the Cabinet of Future Fossils—a riff on 18t-and 19th-century “cabinets” that were filled with all kinds of stuffed specimens, skeletons, and curiosities. A high, arched expanse curves up and over this inner space, leading visitors into an adjacent area that is more open to the garden. Enclosed but not confined, this space references the movement of naturalists who left their studies behind and took to the high seas.
Sabin’s greenhouse was also inspired by the structure of the early 19th-century greenhouses featured in the exhibition—those at the Paris Muséum of Natural History and the one built by Empress Josephine at her Malmaison estate outside Paris. But Sabin’s work stands in striking contrast to those earlier models. Hers is a digitally generated, 21st-century structure made of recycled materials, and it is wholly contemporary in purpose as well as design. Rather than a space for scientists or Empresses, this greenhouse contains within its walls 125 2’ x 2’ x 1’ transparent cold frames (mini-greenhouses) for use by ordinary city dwellers.
The small rectangular, lidded, colorful boxes recall the display vitrines of 19th-century museums, elevating the plantings within them to the status of scientific curiosities. Through workshops on urban gardening, the general public will learn how to grow winter plants using the boxes that are perfectly suited to urban spaces like patios and balconies. A limited number of these boxes will be made available to workshop participants on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Cabinet of Future Fossils inside Sabin’s greenhouse contains displays of evocative ceramic and 3D printed objects that are digitally generated and produced. Like the fossil bones used by French scientists in post-Revolutionary France to classify extinct mammoths and mastodons, Sabin’s three-dimensional “future fossils” imply some future era that will, in turn, look back on these artificially created “natural” curiosities from the computer age. Sabin’s referencing of fossil bones even extends to the overall form of the greenhouse itself, as the vertical cross-ribs that support its walls cleverly echo the rib cage of the huge extinct vertebrates whose fossils were all the rage in the early 19th century.collapse
Weblinks and Articles
newsworks, WHYY, Peter Crimmins, 09/07/11
inhabitat - design will save the world, Tafline Laylin, 09/10/11