St. Louis, MO
Salt Lake City
The Missouri Botanical Garden is the United States’ oldest botanical garden in continuous operation and a global leader in plant science research. Entering a new era, the Garden engaged a collaborative team to design a new visitor center–the primary gateway for over one million annual visitors.
Within the new Visitor Center is the Sassafras Cafe, the Garden's main eatery. To amplify the Garden’s emphasis on species diversity, the Garden’s Horticultural department commissioned Arbolope Studio to design a suite of permanent artworks for display in the Cafe, simultaneously providing an inspiring backdrop for visitors as well as showcasing details and history about the Garden’s research and collections. This dual role - to inspire and educate - became the core mission of the project.
The Garden Horticultural Staff was tasked with collecting and drying plant specimens from across the Garden, which Arbolope then selected from, and designed into a suite of 9 panel tableaus, each panel serving as a graphic interpretation of a research theme or garden typology. A speciality fabricator then produced the panels by using a proprietary process to fuse and encase the plant materials within the glass and resin.
Unique in its use of art to facilitate science communication, the Specimen Panels at the Missouri Botanical Garden are already a visitor favorite, due in large part to their ability to function as both art and science at different distances. Passersby see patterns of color and herbaceous shapes, while those sitting at the cafe booths, standing in line to order, or grabbing soft drinks at the counter can see the details and venation of the leaves and read the placards underneath the panels. In this way, the panels mirror the experience of the Garden - providing layers of experience, meaning, and appreciation for the natural world, all at the discretion of each individual visitor.