The Greenhouse


Jenny E. Sabin
Cornell University
Jenny Sabin Studio


The Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils was commissioned by the American Philosophical Society Museum, funded by Heritage Philadelphia Program, a program of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.  The Greenhouse and Cabinet of Future Fossils attempts to gather, digest, and disseminate information about nature while also incorporating cutting-edge design and fabrication techniques to ultimately produce a greenhouse of the future.

The pavilion structure is populated with cold frame modules and futuristic ceramic and 3D printed curiosities, prefabricated and assembled in the Jefferson Garden, Philadelphia.

Taking inspiration from the artifacts in the exhibition, Of Elephants and Roses: Encounters with French Natural History, 1790–1830,  the  greenhouse revisits 19th-century thematic issues related to nature, culture, and the city to offer new interpretations of greenhouse architecture as urban hybrid ecosystems whose nonstandard form features new material and fabrication logics that inspire a shift away from a technical approach to sustainable architecture to one rooted in design and the built environment.

The pavilion mobilizes concepts of event as the public is invited to actively participate in the planting of the cold frames, thus contributing to the actual secondary structure of the greenhouse, and then disassembling the structure at the end of the installation period and disseminating the planted materials. As a conceptual and provocative backdrop to this project, references are made to important contributions recently made by a small group of accomplished scientists, architects, and researchers at a university symposium whose central theme was to discuss next steps for sustaining sustainability.

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