Beauty at the Cooper Hewitt

The fifth installation of “Beauty- Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” is survey of aesthetics in contemporary design. On display are a number of objects with mathematical connections.


Jenny Sabin 2015-2016

Jenny Sabin’s knitted architectural is based on Mathematics in nature and was commissioned specifically for this show. It was digitally knit using photoluminescent and solar active yarns creating a glowing environment of geometric webs.


Daniel Brown -“On Growth and Form” 2- Video – 2013

Daniel Brown’s six minute video shows the formation of a series of mathematically generated flowers. These blossoms have been created through the process of coding algorithms to digitally render an idealized image of nature. The resulting video has an eery, overly perfect, super realistic quality, an aesthetic contrast from actual flowers.



Michael Anastassiades – “Miracle Chips” – Marble – 2013


Michael Anastassiades’ white marble “Miracle Chips” are circular discs that seem to have been bent into concave surfaces. The sculpture presents a series of discs with increasing concavity. The smoothness of the curves leads the viewer to imagine it is possible to take  flat discs of marble and gently fold them into these elegant forms.

Mathematics was an important theme of the “Beauty” exhibition at the Copper Hewitt and the supporting text of the wall signage was clear in attributing the inspiration and use of mathematics by the artists and designers.

Susan Happersett

Math at the Cooper Hewitt

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan was closed for renovation for three years before  it reopened at the end of 2013. The current exhibition features an overview sample of their vast collection. I was very happy to discover that they have chosen to display quite a bit of work with direct Mathematical links. The debate over the critical delineations between Fine Art and Design is a hot button issue I am not going to address in this blog post. I have selected two pieces that have specific Mathematical themes.

“Prototype for an Environmental Screen, Fibonacci’s Mashrabiya”, 2009 is an architectural element designed by Neri Oxman at MIT Media Lab with Professor W. Craig Carter. It is was created using algorithms and digital processes but is based on traditional screens found in historic middle Eastern design.


The recursive Fibonacci Sequence was used to create the spiral pattern. Here is a detail of the center of the spiral.


Mathematician and artist Daina Taimina has been quite well known for her crocheted sculptures of Hyperbolic Geometry.

“Model of a Hyperbolic Space” 2011, is crocheted out of wool yarn. Working on these sculptures since 1997, Taimina has made major breakthrough on the modelling of figures in Hyperbolic space. Hyperbolic Geometry is a Non-Euclidean Geometry discovered by Janos Bolyai and Nicholay Lobatchevsky in the first half of the 19th century. In Hyperbolic Geometry each point has negative curvature and seems to curve away from itself.

At the Cooper Hewitt there were many more items that featured Mathematics as a design element. There was a very direct indication of the importance Mathematics plays in the field of both decorative and industrial design.