Fallen Petals | 2010

“Whenever we pull on the thread of what makes the Colorado Plateau tick we end up with soil crusts on the other end.” -Jayne Belnap, Biological Soil Crust Research Ecologist

The Colorado Council on the Arts commissioned this permanent public project for the newly reconstructed Berndt Hall at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Berndt Hall, which houses the Biology Department for Ft. Lewis College is the second Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified facility at Fort Lewis College. The 247-acre Fort Lewis College campus is in southwestern Colorado, situated at 6,872 feet atop the Colorado Plateau overlooking the Animas River Valley and historic downtown Durango. The commission asked for work that acknowledged Berndt Hall’s environmental efforts and the history of Fort Lewis College while engaging with the environment of the Four Corners and the architecture of Fort Lewis College.

My goal for the project was to create a visual experience that sensitized the viewer to a composite picture of the biology department within Ft. Lewis and the fragile ecosystem of the Colorado Plateau.

This research focused on the Colorado Plateau’s cryptobiotic crusts which efficiently convert extraordinary amounts of atmospheric nitrogen into a form easily used by plants, and slows wind and water erosion, forming a web of microscopic roots that holds the soil in place.

The resulting sculpture, Fallen Petals, references the crypto-biotic crust of the Colorado Plateau and uses best practices for stormwater management regarding minimal impermeable surface construction and as a snow collection system.