Articles

Flowers Grown from the Topography of a Museum

by Allison Meier on January 24, 2014

Algorithm-based flower by Daniel Brown (all images courtesy the artist)

Algorithm-based flower by Daniel Brown (all images courtesy the artist)

These are flowers grown from a museum, where the colors, textures, and shapes of exhibitions guided each petal, stem, and branch. British designer Daniel Brown has spent a decade creating these generated plants through an algorithm where mathematics and nature overlap.

The most recent iteration of these flowers is in collaboration with the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee in Scotland, brought to our attention by Dezeen. The museum is a small wunderkammer of taxidermy and plant specimens, but recently launched the Renew Project to bring in contemporary art. Brown is part of this initiative, using his new 3D (OpenGL/DirectX) real-time flowers engine, appropriately called “Darwin.”

“For me it’s more about aesthetic than ‘art in a conceptual sense,’” he explained to Hyperallergic. “As the son of a programmer and mathematics lecturer (well, and painter and musician), there were always mathematical diagrams around me from an early age. Many of these were beautiful in themselves, others were probably only elegant to someone who understood what they meant. Since then, I’ve been fascinated in showing mathematics and computer programming in a way that can be recognized as beautiful by anyone.”

"Darwin" flower by Daniel Brown

“Darwin” flower by Daniel Brown

The “Darwin” flowers bloom through a two formula process. The first uses the shapes and curves of the specimens in the museum as a guide in forming branches, leaves, and petals. The second gives texture to the flowers based on photographs from the exhibition that are rearranged and tiled. Each animated flower is unique.

As a nice evolution of its own, the project actually started in part because of the museum’s namesake, biologist Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, which later brought Brown to the museum itself. “The commission for the D’Arcy Thompson Museum came about because the book On Growth and Form — by Thompson — was a huge influence on my work. In it the scientist mathematically analyses the shape of plants, creatures, and other natural phenomena.”

It’s hard to tell looking at the flowers where an angle of a stem or a vibrancy on the petals may be from. A taxidermy bird? Flora specimens from the 19th century? Brown has previously created installations for the Design Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and these flowers for the zoology museum that grow free from nature, driven only by math and input, are a clever reflection of showing the fertile nature of the collections of a museum.

"Darwin" flower by Daniel Brown

“Darwin” flower by Daniel Brown

"Darwin" flower by Daniel Brown

“Darwin” flower by Daniel Brown

Daniel Brown’s flowers are part of the Renew Project at the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum at the University of Dundee in Scotland. 

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  • Rosemary

    Pretty, and makes me feel a little dumb. I’m no mathematician, but the light colored flowers make more sense to me, being more uneven and unworldly. But the dark ones look too regular, too normal. Am I reading the article wrong when I understand the two-formula process to mean both styles of flower have two formulas applied to them? Or is it one formula for each style.

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