The old library building has been gutted and with all the stacks and desks cleared out, you can see what a beautiful piece of modern architecture it really is—not that suitable for a library, because the buildings functional accessories blocked the light and the sightlines.
But its soaring ceiling and open escalators provide a perfect setting for Doug Snow’s enormous painting and for the Leonardo’s eye-popping, theme-setting, quarter-of-a-million dollar work by Phillip Beesley. This piece alone will make the Leonardo a must visit, and it should also help inspire the curators to remember to prevent the Leonardo from becoming just another hands-on science experience, like the Exploratorium.
Instead, the mission is to examine the intersection of art and science—a very specific and somewhat elusive idea that was personified by Da Vinci and manifest in Beesley’s architectural sculpture project—or whatever-it-is—called Hylozoic Soil.
On his website, Beesley describes it as "a geotextile mesh that senses human occupants and responds with air movement produced by peristaltic waves of motion within distributed fields of lightweight pores."
Right. Beesley, a friendly soft-spoken man who is eager to explain his head in the clouds concepts to those of us stuck on the ground, explained it more simply to me when he was here supervising its installation.
The piece itself floats up three levels in the Leonardo, gently waving, randomly lighting and slightly liquid, like a sea anemone in the air, or an alien life form as imagined by Ray Bradbury. Delicate fronds are fitted with microprocessors and whiskery sensors pick up motion and respond to it—the piece is astonishingly beautiful as well as mind-blowing. It's art, but it knows you're there.I visited it during installation, saw the volunteers on cherry-pickers hooking it up,