Hyperbolic crochet coral reef comes to the Smithsonian

According to the Smithsonian Institution, coral reefs have been called “the rainforests of the sea” for the incredible biodiversity they support. Also like their terrestrial counterparts, reefs are under constant attack from a variety of human impacts: from commercial fishing and diving to higher, more acidic oceans caused by climate change.

This past weekend, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History opened a new exhibit designed to educate visitors about reefs and the challenges they face… but rather than featuring photography and video, this exhibition has a decidedly DIY feel to it. The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is made from yarn and reused materials using a crocheting technique that employs hyperbolic geometry to recreate the natural shapes found in these ecosystems.

The exhibit and concept were the brainchild of sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim. The co-founder of LA-based The Institute for Figuring, the crochet reef is just on example of their dedication “to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and the technical arts.” A five-year old concept, the crocheted reef at the Smithsonian is just the latest manifestation: satellite reefs have been built around the world by contributors, and even this latest version consists of crocheted elements contributed by volunteers… so, a “crowdsourced” exhibit, if you will…

Lots of time to get to DC for this one: the exhibit runs through mid-April. And if you want to get a more thorough sense of the project, check out Margaret Wertheim’s TED talk about the project above. And if you’re a crocheter in the greater DC area, consider getting involved in the project