Invasives, a sculptural urban furniture collaboration between Miami natives, seeks to marry an economic demand with an ecological imperative.Invasive plants, introduced to an unfamiliar ecology, show competitive advantages over the native flora. Lacking natural predators and better able to capitalize on available resources, invasives displace natives in great numbers, edging toward a total takeover. Ecologists fight this phenomenon in nature: not only do invasives endanger the continued survival of the native species, but they push the ecosystem toward a monoculture that lacks the diversity to sustain rich webs of plant and animal life up and down the food chain. One such invasive plant, the Australian pine, is wreaking havoc on South Florida’s remnant coastal forests, a habitat already threatened by decades of rapacious real estate speculation. Meanwhile the limited supply of local sustainable hardwoods in South Florida results in high market demand for lumber harvested internationally, to the detriment of South American rainforests.
Invasives was conceived by Miami natives Michele Oka Doner and Local Office Landscape & Urban Design’s Walter Meyer and Jennifer Bolstad. By using Australian pine timber as the material for an easily-replicated, mass-producible public bench, the project establishes the urban streetscape as a new “predator” for the Australian pine. Inspired by the form of a piece of urban driftwood, the artists scanned the found flotsam, creating a 3D point cloud. The point cloud was scaled and manipulated using Rhino and Z-brush softwares, adapting the natural form for use as a durable and comfortable piece of street furniture. Rapid prototypes were 3D-printed in-house, then hand-worked using traditional carving tools. The proximity of Local Office’s studio and the Makerbot studio, the Brooklyn-based inventors of the 3D-printing technology used in this project, facilitated cross-disciplinary innovation between science and art. The blend of high-tech and low-tech methods used during small-scale prototyping was carried over into the 5-Axis routing of the full-scale invasive furniture.
The artists foresee the benches invading the streets, plazas and beaches of Dade County, thriving as new cultural spaces emerge and fostering new social interactions. The contingent harvest of Australian pine from the surrounding hammocks and forests will allow critical native species to reestablish a balanced and healthily diverse ecosystem.