Hyperbolic Reef

I was in Washington DC for work, and my buddy lured me away for a couple of hours to see the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef at the Smithsonian.  It is the brainchild of the folks at the Institute for Figuring.  Whatever figuring is – I read the description and I’m still not sure. The Crochet Reef is a  fusion of art, science, mathematics, handicraft and community practice that “may well be the largest community art project in the world.” The inspiration was the technique of “hyperbolic crochet” discovered in 1997 by Cornell University mathematician Dr. Daina Taimina. The Wertheim sisters used the techniques to develop a whole taxonomy of reef-life forms. I wish I had been able to take better photos. For most of the reefs,  I had to use a flash and press up against the glass.  However, there is a whole flickr group dedicated to the reef project, so I imagine there are lots of great photos.


At last a use for the fun fur and eyelash yarn that would otherwise end up in landfills:

For Gale, there was even a granny square physical manifestation of hyperbolic space:

There were beaded coral bits and man o’war (men o’war?) mixed in, and yes, that white coral is all crocheted with very fine crochet cotton.

I think my favorite part of the visit, though, was the group of preschoolers who raced up to check it out.  One little girl, her face pressed against the glass, yelled “Look, it’s made out of sweaters!”

14 responses to “Hyperbolic Reef

  1. Wow. That’s gorgeous.

  2. It’s made out of sweaters! Love that.

  3. Very, very, VERY cool. And I love “It’s made of sweaters!”

  4. Thanks ML for the granny shout out. Squaring it loud & squaring it proud.

    Can’t wait to see this exhibit.

  5. What a great project to connect people. I tried to understand a bit of the background for the math theory, however I think I will keep to knitting.

  6. I love it! Those are fabulous photos. I SO wish I could see it while it’s there… But I’m glad that you did and I can live vicariously 🙂

  7. That is so fantastic. As an oceanographer/marine biologist who gave up her career due to terminal sea sickness, I really love this.

  8. How was the weather there? Tell us about the weather. Were there things growing? Did you see the sun?

  9. That is weirdly amazing.

  10. Your photos are very good. Coincidence that I should read this entry this afternoon. My husband and I are just back from lunch out at a local pub, the Barking Dog, not that the name of the pub has any relevance to what I’m going to say next. Ian happened to ask about the T-shirt I was wearing. It was a T-shirt that I bought at the Science Gallery in Dublin when I went to see the Hyperbolic Crochet Exhibition. We proceeded, or I proceeded, to talk about the Exhibition. At which point his eyes sort of glazed over. And I resumed eating my share of our pizza.

    By the way, how is your shoulder??

  11. I love the “it’s made of sweaters!” cry, that is too cute.

    Wow, that must be some sight in person! It’s amazing.

  12. Pingback: Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity: The one with the tiara (oh, come on, you had to see this coming)

  13. I was just needing a new photo for my computer desktop – the first one is perfect 🙂

  14. That reef is epic. I love the sculptural quality of crochet!

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