artist and ocean advocate courtney mattison has created a two-story tall ceramic coral reef wall installation for the new US embassy in jakarta, indonesia, and dedicated it to those who are working to fight climate change. the site-specific installation celebrates the fragile beauty, diversity, and value of indonesia’s vibrant reefs while highlighting the human-caused threats they face. corals, anemones, sponges and other reef-dwelling invertebrates coalesce into a cyclone-like spiral with colorful healthy corals at the eye of the storm, their tentacles and branches dancing in the current. 

ceramic coral reef by courtney mattison swirls through US embassy in jakarta
all photos by amanda brooks



indonesia lies at the heart of the coral triangle — the ‘amazon of the sea.’ with more invertebrate species than anywhere else on the planet and nearly 4.000 species of fish, this exceptional region provides food, livelihoods, coastal protection and joy to nearly 400 million people across six countries. indonesia’s archipelago of over 17.000 islands is a keystone for this rich ecosystem, with the health of its human population directly linked to that of the reef. yet today it faces unprecedented threats. corals are so sensitive that the slightest change to the temperature or chemistry of surrounding seawater can cause rapid devastation.

ceramic coral reef by courtney mattison swirls through US embassy in jakarta
mattison has a background in coral reef ecology and conservation



‘I hope that the idea of creating such a monumental, intricately hand-detailed ceramic coral reef sculptural installation inspires a sense of excitement in viewers about the connections we share to reefs while empowering individuals and policymakers to act to conserve,’ explains mattison. ‘it feels essential that the medium of this work be ceramic, as calcium carbonate is both a common ingredient in clay and glaze materials and the substance precipitated by reef-building corals to form their stony skeletons. not only does the chemical structure of my work parallel that of a natural reef, but brittle porcelain anemone tentacles and stoneware coral branches break easily if improperly handled, similar to the delicate bodies of living reef organisms. using simple tools like chopsticks and paintbrushes, I enjoy feeling like a coral, patiently and methodically constructing large, delicate, stony structures that can change an ecosystem.’

ceramic coral reef by courtney mattison swirls through US embassy in jakarta


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: maria erman | designboom