teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show

teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show

biophilia: nature reimagined at denver art museum (DAM)


In the summer of 2024, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) will present Biophilia: Nature Reimagined, a multisensory exhibition that brings together more than 70 imaginative works by an international roster of designers and artists, including Iris van Herpen, Studio Gang, teamLab, Joris Laarman, and DRIFT. Projects will span architectural models and photographs, fashion, digital installations, and immersive artworks that highlight the transformative power of nature. Popularized by American biologist and author Edward O. Wilson, ‘Biophilia’ describes the theory of how humans have evolved to become intrinsically intertwined with nature. Wilson’s hypothesis invites deep reflection and poses relevant questions about life in our hyper-digital and urban-centric world. Inspired by that theory, Darrin Alfred, Curator of Architecture and Design at DAM, envisions the show as a space ‘to heighten our senses, more closely observe the world around us, and engage in cathartic, quiet moments that allow us to breathe amid the complexities of contemporary life,’ he tells designboom. 

teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show
Flowers and People – A Whole Year Per Hour (2020) by teamLab for Biophilia: Nature Reimagined | image © James Florio, courtesy, Denver Art Museum



curator darrin alfred on our intrinsic connection to nature


The Biophilia exhibition at DAM (see more here) breaks down into three themes spotlighting aspects of nature that most impact our wellbeing — Natural Analogs: Form and Pattern; Natural Systems: Processes and Phenomena; and Topophilia: People and Place. ‘Our goal is that by exploring these contemporary works through the lens of these three themes, visitors will delight in the variety of ways design is inspired by nature, explore how nature contributes to their mental and spiritual wellbeing, and reflect on their personal relationship with the natural world and the human need to connect with nature,‘ Darrin Alfred shares with designboom. He goes on outlining several interpretive approaches implemented across the exhibition, like presenting various viewpoints and scientific grounding. 

teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show
installation view | image © James Florio, courtesy Denver Art Museum



from patterns and forms to places and people


The first theme, Natural Analogs, examines the simulation of naturally occurring shapes, sequences, and patterns with varying degrees of abstraction. ‘Here, nature’s aesthetic complexities, which conform to simple mathematical laws—the equations that generate patterns, cones, and pyramids, spirals and waves, and the topological rules of geometry—find new expressions in a digital age,’ explains the curator. Combining humans’ primal fascination with patterns and the wonders of computational technologies, Nervous System design studio lands at Biophilia with its undulating Floraform Chandelier inspired by the ruffled edges of flowers. ‘Floraform explores surface development through differential growth inspired by the biomechanics of growing leaves and blooming flowers. Hyphae is an iterative branching system based on how veins form in leaves. The large, yet airy, suspended light casts a dense forest of shadows, enveloping the viewer in an immersive environment of algorithmically grown plant forms,’ he continues.

teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show
One-seater Concrete Tree (2022) by Nacho Carbonell | image © James Florio, courtesy Denver Art Museum



Next up is Natural Systems, which explores nature’s processes and phenomena, focusing on seasonal and temporal changes. These ‘multisensory artworks establish meaningful connections with nature’s phenomena, fostering a deeper awareness of the essence of life and the awe we experience when fully immersed in it. These encounters cultivate surprise, delight, and empathy,’ Alfred notes. They can encourage a sense of wonder and inspire a commitment to preserve and protect our natural world. Illustrating this section is Meadow by Dutch artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta of DRIFT — a kinetic installation featuring colorful mechanical flowers suspended from above that open and close in an ever-changing choreography. The curator further points out that this particular piece recalls nyctinasty with its ‘Heraclitean motion‘ — a gentle, ever-changing pattern reminiscent of safety and comfort, akin to waves on a shore or grass swaying in the breeze, effortlessly grabbing one’s attention. Its constantly shifting nature allows the mind to unwind and recuperate while observing the mesmerizing movement of the lamps. 


teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show
Nervous System, Floraform Chandelier, 2017 | 3D printed nylon; 43 1/4 in. diam. | made by Shapeways | DAM: Funds from the Architecture and Design Collectors’ Council, 2022.57A-U | © and courtesy Nervous System, inc.



Completing the narrative is Topophilia, which considers the emotional connection between people and their physical environment. These works reflect a native ecology or landscape and convey a distinct sense of one’s culture or homeland. In a collaboration between Terrol Dew Johnson, a Tohono O’odham artist and basket weaver, and the New York and Tucson-based design studio Aranda\Lasch, the Desert Paper series celebrates the rich material history of the Sonoran Desert and the intricate relationships between the land, its resources, and the Indigenous communities that call it home. When asked about how this exhibition will influence future trends and discourses around nature and human innovation, the curator concludes the interview with a final statement: ‘Through this exhibition, it is my hope that many become more conscious about their values and actions and are inspired to take action, not only for ourselves but for future generations. This is no small feat. Our well-being, identity and the planet’s survival may depend on it.’


Midnight in the Meadow Wallpaper (2023) by David Wiseman | image © James Florio, courtesy Denver Art Museum


Biophilia at DAM features work by Andreea Avram Rusu, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Nacho Carbonell, DRIFT, gt2P (great things to People), Simon Heijdens, J. MAYER H., Alexandra Kehayoglou, Joris Laarman, Mathieu Lehanneur, MAD Architects, Elena Manferdini, Nervous System, PELLE, Studio Gang, teamLab, threeASFOUR, Iris van Herpen, and David Wiseman, among others. The exhibition is accompanied by a free digital publication with contributions by Florence Williams, a journalist and author; Cedar Sigo, a poet and member of the Suquamish Tribe; and Kimberly Ruffin, Associate Professor of English at Roosevelt University and a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. It will be available for download for free from the museum’s website. Biophilia will be on view from May 5 through August 11, 2024, in the museum’s Anschutz and Martin & McCormick galleries on level 2 of the Hamilton Building.

teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show
PELLE, Nana Lure Chandelier, 2021 | painted cast cotton paper, patinated steel, and LEDs; 96 × 82 x 82 in. | image courtesy PELLE, © Jean and Oliver Pelle

teamlab, DRIFT, studio gang & others unpack nature in design at DAM's biophilia show
Meadow (2017) by DRIFT | image © James Florio, courtesy Denvert Art Museum


installation view: (on floor) Bajo (lowland) (2024) (on floor) by Alexandra Kehayoglou and Arcadia (2021) (on wall) by Jason DeMarte | image © James Florio, courtesy Denver Art Museum



project info:


name: Biophilia

commissioned by: Denver Art Museum (DAM) | @denverartmuseum

location: Anschutz and Martin & McCormick galleries, Level 2, Hamilton Building

viewing dates: May 5 – August 11, 2024

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