Warming Warning, was a collaborative public art project installed on Harvard University’s Science Center Plaza (1 Oxford St. Cambridge, MA) from October 22nd to December 7th, 2018. This educational sculpture installation was a co-creation of Harvard Forest Fellow David Buckley Borden and Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Aaron M Ellison that combined art, environmental design, and science communication to convey global climate-change data and spur action on campus. The 9’ ×x 10.5’ ×x 28’ sculpture installation was coupled with events, both on- and off- campus events, that were geared towards local work on climate and pathways for direct action. Local Warming Warning programs included workshops and presentations at Le Laboratoire, Somerville Museum, Cambridge Public Schools Design Lab, Project Zero/Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Harvard Science Center Plaza.
Warming Warning was designed to immerse visitors in a three-dimensional visualization of ongoing climate change. On one side, the > 1.5 °F change (since 1880) in the average global average temperature is lined in black highlighted atop aas a white-to-red heat-gradient. The other side of Warming Warning illustrated four different future scenarios of carbon dioxide emissions. These are were representative of the paths we can could take now towards that will lead either to a fossil fuel-free future or an increasingly warm and uninhabitable planet.
The design represented climate change as a series of painted triangles (“deltas”) constructed from standard 4” × 6” inch timbers. Sunlight channeled and diffused through 6” gaps between the timbers bounced off the brightly painted sides, endowing the whole sculpture with an remarkable luminosity. Shadow patterns and color-spectrum vibrancy shifted as the sculpture reflected the sun’s daily arc. The visual experience of the installation also changed in response to the visitor’s perspective. The combined dynamics animated the work throughout the day and rewarded repeated visits.
Finally, Warming Warning left space for more triangles to be added at the end of the series. A stack of nine wood timbers made up a reflection-bench that suggested each person’s role in the narrative of unfolding climate change. The primed seating elements prompted each visitor to consider how they could color the future through individual and collective actions to confront climate change.
This collaborative project was supported by a unique partnership between the Harvard Forest, Harvard University’s Office for Sustainability, and Harvard Common Spaces.
Project Collaborators: Chris Borden, David Buckley Borden, Bill Brown, Jack K Byers, Mike Demaggio, Collin Durrant, Jim DeStefano, P.E., Dr. Aaron M Ellison, Dr. David Foster, Lucas Griffith, CC McGregor, Roland Meunier, Dan Pederson, Matt Robinson, and John Wisnewski.