Established Danish artist Olafur Eliasson is known for bringing nature into architecture. He has installed everything from the sun to rivers in a museum; in reverse, he has also installed a viewing deck on a glacier.
Eliasson deliberately disorients and re-directs his viewer’s sense of space to bring them closer to nature. He hopes that his works can “offer hospitality, inclusion, and a respectful hosting of you and I sharing this space in this conversation,” according to Another Magazine.
Eliasson’s vision of architectural inclusion of nature and people shows how human life, especially the spaces they inhabit, is still very much a part of nature and vice versa. He underlines how architecture and nature are both human habitats that cannot exist without each other, and how humans are only capable of replicating nature to a certain extent. His artistic endeavours increase awareness about the interconnection of human existence, architecture, and the environment, highlighting the critical relationship between these aspects and bringing attention to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Climate Action.
In 2003, he installed The Weather Project at the Tate Museum’s Turbine Hall. What looks like the hot, blaring sun in the museum are lights arranged in a crescent moon shape. The ceiling of the hall was entirely covered in mirror foil, so viewers would only see the space below reflected. It was this architectural feat that allowed the semi-circle arrangement of the mono-frequency lights to transform into the sun, at least visually.
The Weather Project was advertised through yellow cards that contained sentences like “Have you talked about the weather today?” including an invitation card that stated, “The weather will affect the attendance of this reception by 27 percent."
In recent years, extreme weather conditions have appeared with increased frequency due to climate change. It creates everything from record-breaking heat waves on land and at sea to high-volume rains, severe floods, years-long droughts, extreme wildfires, and widespread flooding, all of which are increasing in intensity and frequency.
By bringing this artificial sun into the museum, Eliasson wishes to highlight the role that the sun and the weather play in his viewer’s lives, especially how vulnerable they have gotten over the years. He probes at how so much of human life depends on it and also shows that making an artificial sun is an impossible feat. Something that humankind is only able to achieve inadequately, as is seen in his attempt; hence, he sends the message that humankind must do everything in its power to preserve nature.
According to Eliasson, the moment people walk onto the viewing deck of the artwork, they will immediately recognize the sun in the distance, but if they choose to walk to the end of the viewing deck, they will be able to see how the whole thing has been constructed by man-made materials.
Two million people went to see the installation, and since the work had a reflective ceiling, visitors chose to get creative with how they interacted with the piece.
Photographs from the exhibit show how people would lie down on their backs, forming peace signs, stars, and even words to simply have fun or to express themselves, to take photographs that they could bring home for keepsakes. Ultimately, this shows how his works, which bring nature into architectural spaces, can also bring people together. Critics outline that this is the strength of Eliasson’s works; they manage to draw in large quantities of people who will hopefully be even more interested in preserving and protecting the world’s fragile nature.