Es Devlin partners with Chanel to bring a forest-shrouded labyrinth to Miami’s Jungle Plaza

Eau De Design District

Es Devlin partners with Chanel to bring a forest-shrouded labyrinth to Miami’s Jungle Plaza

(Courtesy Studio Es Devlin)

London-based artist and stage designer Es Devlin has unveiled her latest stateside project, a markedly sylvan and multi-sensory installation that will bring the jungle to the Miami Design District’s Jungle Plaza. The pavilion, dubbed Five Echoes, will be unveiled on November 30 to coincide with the launch of 2021 Miami Art Week and remain on-view at Jungle Plaza, a sweeping outdoor event space taking its name from 2×4’s large-scale tropical mural at the site, through December 21.

Consisting of a Grecian labyrinth brought to life by light and sound effects and enveloped by a dense ephemeral forest of over 1,000 plants, shrubs, and trees, Five Echoes was commissioned by Chanel in celebration of the centenary of Chanel N°5. The inaugural perfume launched by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1921, Chanel N°5 was informed by the “sensory history” of the fashion designer’s childhood spent under the care of nuns at a forest-flanked convent orphanage in Aubazines, a commune in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of central France. As noted in a press release announcing Five Echoes, Chanel N°5 is the “expression of Coco Chanel’s deep sensory connection to nature” and incorporates over 20 botanical essences.

As for Five Echoes, which will be free and open to the public throughout its run, it “aims to remind us of the symbiotic connection between ourselves and the surrounding forest. Visitors engage their senses of sight, smell, and sound as they retrace the winding dance route through the five concentric pathways of the labyrinth.”

“The word labyrinth originally referred to human movement: it was a dance before it became architecture,” elaborated Devlin. “If our behavior can define our architecture, then perhaps our art and architecture can alter our behavior. If works of art can help us to see ourselves as part of the biosphere and symbiotically fused with it, if we can start to see plants and animals as equal protagonists as ourselves in life, I believe we have a better chance of making the fundamental behavioral shifts that are necessary not only to avoid climate chaos, but also to live in a more just, equitable, and joyful way.”

Central to the installation is a “synthesis of sight and sound” developed by Devlin in collaboration with Chanel’s in-house perfumer, Oliver Polge. As detailed in the announcement, the immersive soundscape “contrasts the two methods used in the laboratory to analyze the elements of a scent: highly sophisticated gas chromatography molecular weight analysis, versus a profoundly engaged and experienced human sense of smell.” Devlin and Polge previously collaborated for Mirror Maze, a scent-infused mirrored labyrinth installation commissioned by Chanel in 2016 at an erstwhile warehouse space in Peckham, southeast London.

As for the pop-up forest surrounding the aromatized labyrinth at Jungle Plaza, all 1,000-plus plants used in the work will be replanted across Miami-Dade County-operated parks in the Gladeview and Camp Matecumbe areas of Miami following the conclusion of Five Echoes in an effort spearheaded by nonprofit One Tree Planted and Miami-Dade County’s Million Trees Miami campaign, in collaboration with Chanel. Miami-Dade County Parks is the third-largest county park system in the United States.

“As the Million Trees Miami team points out, increasing Miami’s tree canopy cover to 30 percent will not only reduce temperatures and sequester carbon, but it will also improve residents’ quality of life, as proximity to trees and the powerful phytoncides (essential oils) they emit has been proven to alleviate depression and stress and improve health in countless ways,” said Devlin in a statement.

The labyrinth itself will also be broken down and recycled and reused.

It has been a particularly busy year for Devlin. In addition to serving as artistic director of the 2021 London Design Biennale, her large-scale mirrored maze, Forest of Us, forms part of the inaugural exhibition at Superblue Miami alongside works by TeamLab and James Turrell. The buzzy immersive art space opened this spring in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood. (Superblue Miami is an 8-minute drive from Jungle Plaza for those looking to hit up both installations at once.) Devlin’s Stephen Hawking-inspired United Kingdom Pavilion, a soaring conical structure constructed from cross-laminated timber that features continuously changing, AI-generated poems on its facade, is also turning heads at the Opportunity District at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Meanwhile back in Miami, the Real Deal recently reported on Chanel’s plans for a $40 million Miami Design District flagship store. The French luxury fashion giant has tapped frequent collaborator Peter Marino to design the multi-level, roughly 10,000-square-foot space, set to open in December.