Columbian Auratus Vivarium


Living Installations

There are few spaces that cannot be visually enhanced by incorporating elements of nature into them.  Modern design and architecture have embraced what has become  a movement.  Aesthetics aside, numerous studies support the idea that live plants in enclosed environments, such as those in many homes and offices, improve air quality.  It happens frequently that a guest will stop by my workshop, have a seat while I complete a task, and fall asleep!  My workshop is subterranean with brick walls, a cement floor and receives no natural light.  What it has is lots of plants, vivariums, aquariums, and a number of moving water features.  There is the constant sound of frogs calling and water trickling.  The air is fresh, warm and mildly humid.  It is typical for me to hear comments about how fresh the air is in what is essentially a cave!

Living installations can indeed have tranquilizing effects.  Thoughtfully-planned, well-maintained indoor living walls, aquariums and vivariums can be visually stunning; however, they can have positive impacts on one’s health.  Aquarium therapy is gaining attention and acceptance in medical arenas for the calming effects they have been demonstrated to have. According to some studies, to increase the benefits of having an aquarium  just add fish!

For example:  Researchers Katcher eta al. in one study asked 100 volunteers to read aloud in room one at time for one minute.  This, apparently for many, is stressful.  The volunteers were then left alone in a room with an aquarium.  Some had fish in them, others did not.  Blood pressures were recorded, and it was determined that those who sat before aquariums with fish had the most significant reductions in blood pressure. [1]  This, of course, is the very abbreviated gist of the study.

There is also a plethora of peer-reviewed research examining the relation between employees and workplace environments after the introduction of certain natural elements.  In one study researchers Shibata and Suzuki determined that positive differences in mood and task performance in the workplace (with notable differences between men and women) can be measured after the addition of a plant into a work area.[2]

In her paper entitled, “The Role of Nature in the Context of the Workplace,” Rachel Kaplin, PH.D of the University of Michigan states that “Proximity and availability of the natural environment can foster many desired outcomes, even if the employee does not spend a great amount of time in the natural setting.” [3]   The first line of her bio simply states, “Some environments bring out the best in people; many do not.”

There is truth in that statement far beyond the scope of this website; however, I do feel that it’s a great place to start.  We should always consider where we spend most of our time, how we feel about being there, and what we can do to maximize the benefits of being there.  Placing a potted plant on a table top in a room where before there was none is also a nice start, however; on this website I am offering a few other ideas!

As an artist, I think of the Living Installations that I create as structures suggestive of relative permanence.  That is, they are not intended to be temporary.  I expect them to live and grow.  They are intended to attract and hold attention, and to be demonstrative of how all living organisms, humans included, will thrive when the conditions provided are favorable.  You will find examples of these by following the links below, which can also be accessed by using the Living Installations tabs.

Vivariums, Paludariums and Aquariums
Living Walls and Other Open Installation

Comments or inquiries?  Please feel free to contact me!


[1]Katcher, Aaron, Herman Segal, and Alan Beck. “Contemplation of an Aquarium for the Reduction of Anxiety.” The Pet Connection. Ed. R.K. Anderson, B. Hart, and L. Hart. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1984. 171-178.

[2] Seiji Shibata and Naoto Suzuki “Effects of an indoor plant on creative task performance and mood”   Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 2004, 45, 373–381

[3] Rachel Kaplan “The Role of Nature in the Context of the Workplace” Landscape and Urban Planning, 26 (1993) 193-201 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam