The David Attenborough Building is hosting an art exhibition this week, which celebrates the pioneering partnership between conservationists and the University of Cambridge. The show features photographs of Museum of Zoology specimens preserved in alcohol (termed “spirits”) partnered with tree saplings grown from seeds collected from the specimen’s natural habitat. A second artwork, ‘Seeing Red..Overdrawn’, is an interactive 23ft long, 10ft high printed list of more than 4,700 threatened species, and will be on display beside Stranded, a 19ft-long crystal encrusted whale skeleton.
The artists behind these works, Ackroyd & Harvey (Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey), are famous for their living artworks including 2007’s ‘FlyTower’ for which they grew seedling grass over part of London’s iconic National Theatre, and ‘History Trees’, ten living sculptures marking entrances to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Ackroyd says: “The tree elements came through our realisation that the building is on the site of the old botanic garden. There is a sense of overlaying history there - zoology and botany - and animals and plants have been very important within our work for the past 25 years.”
The exhibition is taking place in what will become the public café of the David Attenborough Building, between the Museum of Zoology and the entrance to the CCI campus. A new public artwork by Ackroyd & Harvey around the new Corn Exchange Street entrance to the building will also be unveiled this week. The 30ft long by 20ft high spiral slate sculpture will be installed on the facing wall of the stairway leading to the exhibition space and CCI’s new conservation campus. The sculpture is inspired by mathematician Fibonacci's “golden ratio” spiral.
Refurbishment work on the David Attenborough Building is due to be completed in April with the Museum of Zoology scheduled to reopen on its lower floors later this year. The free art show (9 March-17 April) is part of the University of Cambridge’s Science Festival (7-20 March).