November 6, 2020 - Citygroup - HOME-OFFICE: PALM-HOUSE
e-flux Architecture
November 6, 2020
November 6, 2020



November 7, 2020–February 28, 2021

Virtual Opening: November 12, 8–9:30pm

104b Forsyth Street
New York, NY 10002
United States


PALM-HOUSE, a project by HOME-OFFICE, is an exhibition that examines the relationship between a plant, the people who care for it, and the architecture that houses it. The project is installed at Citygroup, a collective space for gathering and exhibitions on the Lower East Side of Manhattan focused on architecture and the city.

Within the Orto Botanico in Padua, Italy—a walled garden built by the University of Padua in 1545 for medicinal plant research—survives a 450 year old Mediterranean Palm (Chamaerops humilis) known as Goethe’s Palm. This specimen served as one of the inspirations for Johann von Goethe’s theory on botanical morphology, enumerated in the text The Metamorphosis of Plants from 1790. To protect the specimen over the centuries, university gardeners constructed a series of temporary and permanent palm houses, producing an index of the changing relationship between a living ecosystem and the technical, environmental, and material conditions required for its care. 

Continuing these four centuries of maintenance and cultivation, PALM-HOUSE proposes three future prototypes to house this fragile specimen. While greenhouse architectures (such as the Palm House in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew) often represent a problematic conflation of colonial extraction and ecological exceptionalism, can an alternative deployment of the tectonic and climatic systems used for horticultural care instead be used to promote a renewed awareness of planetary ecology? By adjusting these assemblages, botanical technicians can continuously calibrate the enclosures to mitigate the deteriorating environmental conditions of this indigenous species: curating atmospheric compositions, filtering dangerous pollutants, and shielding the palm from extreme temperature fluctuations. By acknowledging the needs and precarity of the specimen, the prototypes center the palm within an ecology of care, producing an intimate encounter between a plant, the people who tend it, and the architecture that houses it.

Virtual Opening: On November 12 at 8pm (ET), Citygroup will host a virtual tour of the exhibition and a conversation about PALM-HOUSE. Joining in the conversation will be Brittany Utting and Daniel Jacobs of HOME-OFFICE, with respondents Amelyn Ng of Rice University School of Architecture and Gabriel Cuellar of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. Please RSVP above or email PALM-HOUSE [​at​] to register. 

In-Person Viewing: In person viewings will be by appointment only and will comply with all city safety regulations and guidelines. Please email PALM-HOUSE [​at​] to make an appointment. 

HOME-OFFICE is a research and design collaborative led by Brittany Utting, Assistant Professor at Rice University School of Architecture, and Daniel Jacobs, Adjunct Faculty at the University of Houston. Their work focuses on how architecture mediates the social, material, and ecological conditions of everyday life. Special thanks to Jianing Cui, Tiffany Xu, Clara Núñez-Regueiro, and Leah Hong for their work on the project.

Citygroup is a collective of architects and artists that formed to address the structural and cultural forces that shape the normative practice of architecture and its relationship to the city. The group organizes debates, gatherings, exhibitions and installations in a storefront space on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. 

This exhibition is made possible through support from Rice University School of Architecture and Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan.

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Citygroup, November 6, 2020
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