A brilliant greenhouse suffused with a rich spectrum of color stands at 25 Porchester Place in London. Bathed in sunlight by day and illuminated by LED bulbs at night, the translucent structure is lined with a disorienting collage of Christian iconography and folkloric imagery: saintly figures sprout insect wings and wildlife occupies spaces usually dominated by humans in a melange of spiritual symbols.
Titled “Sacré blur,” the greenhouse is a 2015 project by horticultural artists Tony Heywood and Alison Condie, who originally created the piece to house psychedelic plants at the Oxford Botanic Gardens—this part of the project never materialized over fears that students might misuse the hallucinatory specimens. The intention for the sculpture revolved around the idea of sacred light, the foremost example being stained glass, and creating a transcendent space complete with a mirrored infinity floor. “We are gardeners,” Heywood shares with Colossal. “The greenhouse is an architect’s equivalent of a temple. It’s where life begins and the ritual of caring and nurture take place.”
The London-based pair, who work as Heywood & Condie, began by dismantling hundreds of panels, some of which dated back to the 18th and 19th centuries, and following the patterns and grisaille to splice new creatures. They then glued the layered works to the existing frame of a greenhouse. “The idea is nature transforming and using the stained glass as a medium to visit a (time) when we worshiped plants, insects, and animals, as opposed to the Christian line of thinking that humans are above animals, above everything,” Heywood says.
This connection to the earth alongside an interest in the broad reaches of spirituality influence the pair’s practice, particularly those relating to creation myths and about bringing new life into existence. “Church is about shifting our consciousness and making us think of where we lie in the world and likewise, whether it’s a psychedelic experience or a meditative experience, it’s about shifting our attention,” he shares. “Gardening is an act of creation.”
“Sacré blur” has been exhibited in multiple locations in recent years and will be at its current spot for the coming weeks. Heywood & Condie have a few works in progress at the moment, including an alphabetical labyrinth on a northwest U.K. beach and an obelisk collection mixing religious stained glass along with pieces from early pinball and gambling machines that will be on view at Vigo Gallery. You can also see their works as part of The Poetry of Trees, which opens at The Atkinson in Southport on June 4, and on June 11, a series of jewel-encrusted marine microorganisms will float across The Water Gardens at Marble Arch in London. (via Steampunk Tendencies)
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A follow-up to his series focused on the glow of LED-lit greenhouses, Tom Hegen’s new collection peers down on the landscape of Spain’s Almería peninsula. The German photographer is broadly interested in our impact on the earth and gears his practice toward the aerial, offering perspectives that illuminate the immense scale of human activity.
In The Greenhouse Series II, Hegen captures the abstract topographies of the world’s largest agricultural production center of its kind, which stretches across 360-square kilometers of rugged, mountainous terrain in the southern part of the country. The sun-trapping structures house plants like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and watermelons that provide fresh produce to much of Europe year-round.
While 30 times more productive than typical farmland in the region, the facilities also function at a cost to the local ecosystems. “Groundwater is being polluted with fertilisers and pesticides. Some 30,000 tons of plastic waste are created each year,” Hegen tells Colossal, noting that the greenhouses are made almost entirely of plastic foil, which is shredded and discarded nearby once it’s no longer useful. “From there, wind and erosion transport it to the (Mediterranean Sea).”
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The construction of sustainable and environmentally friendly structures for residential and commercial purposes is one of the more significant challenges of our time. As the built environment continues to encroach on natural habitats worldwide, architects have begun to alter their approach to constructing homes and offices, often taking the lead from nature itself. Evergreen Architecture: Overgrown Buildings and Greener Living, released last month by Gestalten, surveys a wide array of institutional, residential, rural, and urban structures that directly interface with their surrounding environments. The book explores completed projects and theoretical designs that utilize green roofs, vertical gardens, and skyscrapers that support hundreds of trees, many of which we’ve mentioned previously on Colossal. Evergreen Architecture is available now through Bookshop and Gestalten. (via A Daily Does of Architecture)
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The Coral Greenhouse: Jason deCaires Taylor's Latest Installation is an Underwater Sanctuary for Vulnerable Sea Creatures
About 50 miles from Townsville, Australia, an unassuming structure created by Jason deCaires Taylor (previously) rests on the sandy floor the John Brewer Reef. Currently, “The Coral Greenhouse” is in pristine condition with little algae or tiny organisms stuck to its sides. Over time, though, the sculptural work is designed to amass vibrant clusters of the sea creatures as they colonize the submerged form.
Constructed with corrosion-resistant stainless steel and pH-neutral substances, the biomorphic frame is modeled after nature’s patterns. The materials help inspire coral growth and are designed to be absorbed into the oceanic environment as the colonies sprawl across it. Workbenches line its sides and are adorned with simple patterns that create small enclaves for ocean life to hide from predators or rest. To keep divers away from the fragile ecosystems, Taylor tends to install his marine projects in less vulnerable areas.
Weighing 165 tons, the sanctuary is the Museum of Underwater Art’s largest installation to date. The A-frame structure is comprised of triangular sections and a massive cement base, which provide stability from waves and adverse weather. Its slatted sides allow divers, filter-feeding organisms, and schools of fish to swim in and out, and floating spires that protrude from the beams’ apex oscillate with the currents.
Figurative sculptures, which were made from casts of kids around the world, populate the inside to serve as a reminder that the coral needs care. They’re shown cradling planters, peering into microscopes, and watching over the vulnerable environment. “Thus they are tending to their future, building a different relationship with our marine world, one which recognizes it as precious, fragile, and in need of protection. Our children are the guardians of the Great Barrier Reef,” Taylor writes about the piece.
Dives to tour the site-specific installation will begin in 2021. Until then, get an idea of how some of Taylor’s previous works have transformed after being submerged for more than a dozen years on his Instagram. (via Fast Company)
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German photographer Tom Hegen, who specializes in aerial photography, recently traveled to the Netherlands to document the country’s LED greenhouses. The greenhouses were developed as a response to the small country’s growing need for food both within its own borders and to the international market. Dutch exporters are second only to the U.S. industry for global food exports as measured by value. Although the greenhouses offer incredible efficiency in their design, cultivating food year-round through high temperatures and humidity levels, their round-the-clock use also gives off a great deal of light pollution. Hegen flew in a helicopter at night to capture the yellow and purple glow that the greenhouses give off, their geometric planes of illumination standing out from the dark atmosphere.
The photographer tells Colossal that his work centers around the topic of the Anthropocene (the era of human influence on Earth’s biological, geological, and atmospheric processes). “In my photography, I explore the origin and scale of that idea in an effort to understand the dimensions of man’s intervention in natural spaces and to direct attention toward how humans can take responsibility.” Hegen explains that aerial photography in particular helps convey the Anthropocene because it shows the dimensions and scale of human impact more effectively.
“I am also fascinated by the abstraction that comes with the change of perspective; seeing something familiar from a new vantage point that you are not used to,” Hegen tells Colossal. “I use abstraction and aestheticization as a language to inspire people and also to offer the viewer a connection to the subject as they need to decode what they are looking at.”
In 2018 Hegen published his first aerial photo book, HABITAT, and next year he will start working on a follow-up, the artist shares with Colossal. Keep up with Hegen’s travels and latest projects on Instagram and Behance.
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Portuguese artist Ana Frois uses her background in architecture to draft precise structures she fills with imaginative monochrome plants and miniature gardening accessories. The series, simply titled Greenhouses, is created with white pencil on top of deep blue acrylic on paper. The ghostly forms are reminiscent of a cyanotype or faded architectural sketch, as if the clean-cut floating renderings are memories from another time. You can find more of Frois’s drawings on Instagram, and purchase prints of her work on Etsy.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.