• solarise: a sea of all colors

solarise: a sea of all colors shines a new light on Garfield Park Conservatory. This art installation will be on display from September 23, 2015 through September 22, 2016. The solarise exhibit at Garfield Park Conservatory is a series of light and sculptural environments created by Luftwerk – Chicago artists Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero.

solarise: a sea of all colors

September 23, 2015 through September 22, 2016
9 am - 5 pm Daily, Wednesdays: 9 am - 8 pm

solarise: a sea of all colors is Luftwerk’s site-specific response to the Garfield Park Conservatory’s historic structure and natural collection. Inspired by the groundbreaking and innovative vision of Jens Jensen, the godfather of naturalistic landscape and conservatory design, Luftwerk’s series of art installations throughout the conservatory echo Jensen’s sentiment for public interaction with nature, elevating and highlighting the perception and importance nature plays in society and urban planning.

The response comes in the form of five dynamic, immersive installations inspired by each piece’s surrounding exhibit: The Beacon, Portal, Florescence, Seed of Light, and Prismatic. Each artwork invites the visitor to interact with color, light, and nature in new perspectives, highlighting awareness for the visitor’s natural surroundings, the relevance of Jensen’s visionary landscape, and the architectural and societal significance of the building and grounds.

solarise: a sea of all colors

This extraordinary art installation (our first new exhibit since the Conservatory’s Grand Re-Opening) adds an entirely new dimension to your visit at the Conservatory. solarise: a sea of all colors highlights the amazing relationships between two remarkable forces of nature - light and plants! This interactive exhibit includes several dynamic pieces in four of the Conservatory’s display houses:

The Beacon

When Jens Jensen conceived the dome structure for Garfield Park Conservatory, his eye fell upon an icon of the Midwest — the prairie grass haystack. Featuring computer-programmed LED lights that run along the interior of the Palm House dome, The Beacon is a permanent installation activated by an anemometer that gauges the course and speed of the wind passing across Chicago. Translating this data to the LED lights affects the vibrancy, speed, and dynamics of the installation. Dependent upon the weather, this site-specific display creates a fluid gesture of light that mimics tall prairie grasses swaying in the breeze. Click Here to view The Beacon installation rendering.


Inspired by the blue and red spectrums of sunlight that plants utilize to photosynthesize growth, Florescence is a sculptural intervention of red and blue petals, hung canopy-like in an optical pattern. As the light passes through these filters, colorful shadows are cast throughout the entirety of the Show House, creating an immersive experience that heightens the viewer’s awareness of the processes by which nature unfolds. Click Here to view Florescence installation rendering.

Seed of Light

Seed of Light is a kinetic chandelier of water and light inspired by the circular geometry of the Flower of Life—the universal symbol of creation. With each illuminated droplet, circular trays catch the water below, magnifying ripple shadows across the floor of the Conservatory’s Horticulture Hall. Created in collaboration with Bill Bartolotta. Click Here to view Seed of Light installation rendering.


Prismatic evokes the cross-sectional geometry of desert plant bodies and realizes their forms into a multi-dimensional representation. By day, the sunlight shines through prismatic-shaped acrylic spokes, refracting the white rays of light into the full spectrum of its component colors. As the sun passes overhead, the display of light shifts, creating a continuous movement of light and color throughout the day. In the evening, Prismatic illuminates via intelligent LED lighting and responds to a composition of music, creating a dynamic and playful activation within the Desert House. A sound installation using plant materials from the Conservatory collection will accompany the suspended sculpture; an original composition by Owen Clayton Condon. Click Here to view Prismatic installation rendering.


Framing the legendary “spring song waterfall,” which crowns the lagoon of the Fern Room, Portal draws the viewer’s gaze to fall directly upon the heart of the conservatory. Floating above the surface of the reflection pool, Portal performs as a frame for—and reflection of—the natural surroundings in which it is situated. With its mutli-faceted use of mirrors, the installation mimics the slick of the reflection pool, while fragmenting and abstracting the figures of flora blooming in the space. Click Here to view Portal installation rendering.

solarise: a sea of all colors is a nexus of art and science and embodies STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning. Paying homage to the Conservatory’s patrons, groundskeepers and Mr. Jensen, himself, power requirements for the entire exhibit are offset through solar power. solarise opens September 23, 2015 at Garfield Park Conservatory. Connect yourself to the arts and sciences at Garfield Park Conservatory. All exhibit halls are free of charge at the Conservatory. The Conservatory is open daily from 9 to 5 pm and Wednesday evenings until 8 pm.


Luftwerk is the artistic vision of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero. Luftwerk’s art practice focuses on the exploration of what makes a space a place and how art plays a vital role within urban and natural environments. With each individual project, Luftwerk discovers and accentuates the unique connections between architecture, environment and the communities which interact within these places, transforming their experiences of space and site through light and sound.

The solarise exhibit is made possible through a grant from Exelon Corporation and ComEd

“Exelon and ComEd are proud to support this dynamic new exhibit at the Garfield Park Conservatory. The creative use of light and energy aligns with the innovations taking place in our business,” said Chris Crane, president and CEO, Exelon. “We support a wide variety of educational initiatives in the city, and the STEAM programming tied to this exhibit will help prepare the city’s youth for future careers in energy and other science-related fields.”



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Conservatory Event Contact

  • Chicago Park District
  • Conservatory Visitor Information
  • 312-746-5100

Conservatory Location

  • 300 North Central Park Ave.
  • Chicago, Illinois 60624-1945
  • 312-746-5100

Conservatory Visitor Hours

  • Daily: 9 am to 5 pm
  • Wednesdays: 9 am to 8 pm
  • Admission: FREE! We do ask for a suggested donation at the door.

Conservatory Information

The Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois is one of the largest and most stunning conservatories in the nation. Often referred to as "landscape art under glass," the Garfield Park Conservatory occupies approximately 4.5 acres inside and out, and includes cold frames and propagation houses where thousands of plants are grown each year. Garfield Park Conservatory is located in Garfield Park — an 184-acre site located on Chicago's redeveloping Westside designed as a pleasure ground by William LeBaron Jenney — serving as the centerpiece of the three great original Westside parks (Humboldt, Garfield, and Douglas).

If you have questions about an event, please contact our Program Registrar at registrar@garfieldpark.org or 773-638-1766 ex. 25. Public transportation, driving, and parking information can be viewed on our Directions page.