Starbursts comprised of clear plastic that looks like icicles and mesh made of metal

BITS – Meander by Philip Beesley

In ALL, BITS by McKenzie Prillaman

Want to witness architecture come alive? Now you can with Philip Beesley’s Meander, the largest living architecture sculpture in the world, which is permanently on display at Tapestry Hall in Cambridge, Ontario.

This artwork comes to life thanks to embedded computers and sensor arrays that “sense, react, and learn from [the] environment and the behaviour of [the] audiences.” These components constantly transfer data within the sculpture, causing the structures to respond to visitors with motion, light, and sound.

View of the icy sculpture with its feathered hanging pieces and illuminated starbursts.
Meander by Philip Beesley, panoramic view of central shell cluster and flanking canopies, Cambridge, Canada, 2020. Image courtesy of Philip Beesley Studio Inc./Living Architecture Systems Group.
Starbursts comprised of clear plastic rods that looks like icicles and mesh made of metal
Meander by Philip Beesley, view of central hemispherical shell cluster, Cambridge, Canada, 2020. Image courtesy of Philip Beesley Studio Inc./Living Architecture Systems Group.

Meander is comprised of a lightweight and flexible structure intertwined with lattices of metal and recycled transparent polymer. It creates an icy, ethereal effect as it hangs from the ceiling of Tapestry Hall. The space that houses the piece sits along the Grand River, the ecosystem that inspired the artwork.

Commissioned by HIP Developments in partnership with the City of Cambridge, Meander serves to inspire and transform the community.

“The Grand River reminds us how we built the region’s industry and prosperity, but it can also teach us how to prosper in the future,” says Scott Higgins, President of HIP Developments. “This sculpture, and our river, can be seen as a metaphor for nature’s networks and how to think, design, and problem solve in today’s complex, turbulent, and interconnected world.”

Hanging pieces that look like clear feathers.
Meander by Philip Beesley, view of Sargasso cloud, Cambridge, Canada, 2020. Image courtesy of Philip Beesley Studio Inc./Living Architecture Systems Group.
Starbursts comprised of clear plastic that looks like icicles and mesh made of metal
Meander by Philip Beesley, detailed view of central hemispherical shell cluster, Cambridge, Canada, 2020. Image courtesy of Philip Beesley Studio Inc./Living Architecture Systems Group.

Meander’s message is more important than ever during the pandemic. “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we are all interconnected and interdependent,” states Beesley, the artist behind the work and an architecture professor at the University of Waterloo.

“While the urge may be strong in these challenging days to put up boundaries and retreat into our individual silos, to do so inevitably weakens society. It is only through embracing joyful and curious openness and exchange that we can sustainably address challenges moving forward.”

View of the icy sculpture with its feathered hanging pieces and illuminated starbursts.
Meander by Philip Beesley, elevation view seen from mezzanine, Cambridge, Canada, 2020. Image courtesy of Philip Beesley Studio Inc./Living Architecture Systems Group.

For more about Meander, visit its website, Instagram, or Facebook. For more by Philip Beesley, visit his website.

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About the Author
McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie Prillaman

McKenzie is a fledgling science communicator working at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has a background in neuroscience, and was a research assistant at the University of Virginia and a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health. After years of thinking she’d become a neuroscience researcher, she discovered her passion for sharing science with others. That finding, in combination with her lifelong dabbling in the arts, led her to write for Art the Science's blog. In her free time, she can be found volunteering with the Smithsonian Associates studio arts classes, trying new foods, and wandering around her home of Washington, D.C. Twitter: @meprillaman