Jason Bruges Studio reveals installation inspired by “nature’s wayfinding”

Jason Bruges describes how its latest public work Floral Guide was informed by the “choreography” between plants and pollinators.

Jason Bruges Studio has unveiled its latest public commission, an interactive artwork that takes cues from “nature’s colour-based wayfinding systems”.

Located in an underpass between Brentford Stadium and Kew Bridge, the project is a commission for sustainability-focused developer EcoWorld London.

Studio founder Jason Bruges explains that the work responds to the proximity of research and educational institution, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Thinking about how people would flow through the public space of an underpass, the studio looked to nature for inspiration.

He says that the studio is regularly “inspired by natural systems and how they work”, and has previously worked with the idea of photoreception as a kind of signalling system. But for this project, the studio “zoomed in on pollinators”, and took the opportunity to speak with some of Kew’s researchers.

“We were looking at wayfinding systems for different types of insects, but particularly bees, as there are 100 species of bees at Kew”, Bruges says.

He explains that Phil Stevenson, professor of plant chemistry at the Royal Botanic Gardens, was instrumental to these conversations. An interesting metaphor they discussed was “a flower as a coffee shop”, referring to an “addictive” chemical within the nectar.

“The bees are sort of addicted [as if] to caffeine and keep going back”, Bruges says. The colour of the flower then changes to reflect how much nectar there is left in it, “signalling in real time”.

Describing this process as “choreography”, the studio looked to how the installation could act in a similar way and “change in response to the frequency of people passing by, like bees passing the flowers”, says Bruges.

The work comprises a series of modular components “arranged across the wall as a glade of flowers”. Using dichroic glass to create the colours resulted in “very deeply saturated, wonderful colours”, Bruges says.

“It has great registration on the brick walls; we were very much responding to the space”, he adds.

The studio “often takes these liminal, unloved spaces and gives them a bit of a twist”, Bruges says. “We’re hoping it’s something that the community will really like and respond to”.

Floral Guide will be a permanent installation, as 80% of the studio’s projects are, according to Bruges. Intended for a lifespan of “20 years plus”, he explains that the modules “are designed to be repairable”, while visually, it “is really important that they have this timeless elegance that doesn’t get tired”.

Speaking of the in-house team of “engineers, technologists, designers and artists” that designed the modules, Bruges says “we design everything in a way that is considerate of the manufacturing processes. We test everything to make sure that it will have long lifecycles”.

For a project such as this, the studio also creates a number of spare modules “and even manuals”, he adds, so that the client can replace parts easily – while the team is often retained to look after maintenance too.

Reflecting on the project, he says, “It’s quite a simple concept in some ways, but really fascinating.

“We’re always trying to shine a light on the natural world and our relationship with it – biodiversity and bees and how things are pollinated, these are crucial things.”

The permanent installation is now complete, located at Kew Bridge Gate, London, UK.

All images courtesy of Jason Bruges Studio, photos by Sandra Ciampone.

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