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The Ladies Silurian Atoll (detail of crochet coral reef object). Photo copyright The Institute for Figuring by Alyssa Gorelich

Asea of vibrant colors and fantastic structures, the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef evokes a sense of stewardship of their real-life counterparts through a whimsical and beautiful display.  Atolls and clusters of crocheted corals, made of both yarn and found materials, weave their way into unique coral communities.  By using particular crocheting techniques that employ hyperbolic geometry, these reefs take shape into complex, natural-looking forms. Learn how you can contribute your crochet creations to the Smithsonian Community Reef, which will be on display at the National Museum of Natural History, October 16, 2010 – April 24, 2011.

Margaret and Christine Wertheim, co-founders of The Institute For Figuring, have created an exhibition that combines the mathematics of hyperbolic geometry with the delicateness of this traditionally women’s handicraft. The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a traveling exhibition that not only displays these artworks, but also incorporates an ever-growing social project—teaching others around the world how to crochet hyperbolically and make their own reefs.  By working through this process and viewing the art, one can see the correlation between the crocheted reefs and living corals, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  The fragility of the coral reefs is echoed by their crocheted counterparts.

Margaret Wertheim recently gave this talk about the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project. Available online at Ted.com

Get Involved with the Smithsonian Community Reef

Do you want to be a part of this Smithsonian exhibit? Individual crocheters and crochet groups from the greater Washington metropolitan area (DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia) and around the nation are invited to participate by creating pieces for the Smithsonian Community Reef, which will be on display at the National Museum of Natural History, October 16, 2010 – April 24, 2011. To learn more, visit our Smithsonian Community Reef page.

What's Hyperbolic?

In 1997, Dr Daina Taimina, a mathematician, discovered how to make physical models of the geometry known as "hyperbolic space" using the art of crochet. Until that time many mathematicians believed it was impossible to construct such forms; yet nature had been doing just that for hundreds of millions of years. Many marine organisms embody hyperbolic geometry in their anatomies, including corals. This geometry maximizes surface area in a limited volume, thereby providing greater opportunity for filter feeding by stationary corals.

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a project created and run by The Institute For Figuring.

The Smithsonian Community Reef is a satellite of the worldwide Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project created by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles. It was made possible through the support of the Quiksilver Foundation, the Embassy of Australia, and the Coral Reef Alliance.

Get Involved with the Smithsonian Community Reef

Children sitting and crocheting

Did you know that you can be a part of this wonderful project?

Help create the Smithsonian Community Reef, which will be on display at the National Museum of Natural History, October 16, 2010 – April 24, 2011.



Share Your Crochet Coral Reef Creation!

Share your own illustrations on the museum's Flickr pool.

Upload and share your own crochet reef creations on the Smithsonian Community Reef Flickr pool.



Join the Discussion

Join the discussion on Ravelry.com

Join the discussion on Ravelry.com, a free site for knitters and crocheters. Search for and join the "Smithsonian Community Reef" group once you create your free Ravelry account.

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