With Every Fiber, an exhibition designed by Studio Cooke John, debuts at Grace Farms

Material Legacy

With Every Fiber, an exhibition designed by Studio Cooke John, debuts at Grace Farms

The exhibition features contributions from myriad Design for Freedom participants, a summit which began in 2020 to address forced labor in the global construction industry. (Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Grace Farms)

A new longterm exhibition opens this weekend at Grace Farms in New Canaan, Connecticut, designed by Studio Cooke John Architecture + Design. The show, entitled With Every Fiber, hopes to inspire people to understand and care about the materials that make up the built world around us.

Previously, Nina Cooke John, cofounder of Studio Cooke John, spoke at the latest Design for Freedom, a summit launched in 2020 at Grace Farms to weed out forced labor in the global construction industry cofounded by Sharon Prince of Grace Farms and AN cofounder and editor-in-chief Bill Menking. Now, With Every Fiber builds upon this legacy.

With Every Fiber responds to Design for Freedom’s efforts to remove the veil covering the reality of unethical labor practices in the construction industry,” Nina Cooke John said. “The exhibit draws Grace Farms visitors—neighbors from across the street and design professionals from around the world—into the space and invites them to contemplate what goes into making our homes, places of work, cultural spaces, and sites for commemoration.”

While the exhibition was designed by Studio Cooke John, it certainly isn’t a one-person show. It features individual contributions by twenty designers, material suppliers, cultural institutions, and construction industry leaders affiliated with Design for Freedom.

rendering exhibition view people viewing
Exhibition design by Studio Cooke John Architecture + Design (Hayes Davidson/Courtesy Grace Farms)

With Every Fiber, curated by Chelsea Thatcher, is meant to place in the public eye what Design for Freedom is all about. “This exhibit is a dynamic environment in which people can pause and consider the hands making our building materials. With Every Fiber is a composition of collaboration; it weaves together the agency each of us has to design a more humane future for all,” Thatcher said. Those on view in the longterm exhibit include works by Pentagram, Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture, Buro Happold, MillerKnoll, Sherwin-Williams, Sciame Construction, New Canaan Library, Serpentine Galleries, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Joy Harjo, Carrie Mae Weems, Alyson Shotz, Hayes Davidson, Delta Light, Nucor, and North American Stainless.

Studio Cooke John collaborated with MillerKnoll to create a Maharam textile for the exhibition. The textured blue cloth material covers the walls in the gallery to create a backdrop for the objects and information on display, while simultaneously serving as an example work itself.

The contribution by Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture is about the relationship between cultural and sustainability. It features myriad indigenous materials from UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage such as materials dyed in variations of indigo. This “biomaterials installation” is meant to evoke the “long and complicated history” between global trade and labor exploitation. Yale’s contribution also touches upon contemporary research into circular economies: One object on view is a car part made of agricultural waste.

Also on view is a poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, entitled Honoring, not far from a text on display by artist Carrie Mae Weems. These works appear close to photographs by humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine which documents individuals living as forced laborers from around the world. An immersive 18-minute recording by a quarter of the London Philharmonic Orchestra—with three short works by Purcell, Dvořák, and Mozart—is the exhibition’s most significant audio portion.

Doors open for With Every Fiber this weekend, May 4. Visitors can also check out the exhibition virtually.