Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen

On Friday, I had the good fortune to get out of work a bit early. I was thinking of just heading home (I was pretty tired), but ultimately decided to stop in at the Chicago Cultural Center to check out the Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest exhibit.

It’s been in Chicago a while, and I work really close by. I kept telling myself I’d go check it out over lunch one of these days, and before I knew it… the exhibit was in its final week.

I remember the inside of the Cultural Center being pretty, but it’s been ages since I’ve come in here. I was stunned at just how gorgeous the place was.

The first few displays of the exhibit showed many of the smaller pieces that make up each creature.

Lots of configurations and combinations.

A few of the combinations almost look like bones.

Here’s some of the text that was written on a placard nearby:

Theo creates Strandbeests from an inexpensive, widely available material he calls “artistic protein”: the plastic tubing used as conduit for electric wiring in Dutch buildings. The goal is survival. The beests have evolved dramatically over the years. They first learned to walk, and now have many mechanisms to keep them safe in storms and away from the rising tide. In time each beest outlives its evolutionary role and becomes part of Theo’s fossil record.

Even more complex combinations.

One of the wind-powered beests.

I couldn’t help myself here, and had to capture this.

A larger “fossil record,” showing the timelines and eras of the various beests that have existed. In many ways, I found this just as compelling as the beasts themselves.

Moving to the larger room, where several of the beests were on display.

This is the Animaris Suspendisse:

One of the biggest Strandbeests so far, Suspendisse can change direction to avoid the incoming tide. Sails on its back are designed to pump air into its wind stomachs, allowing the beest to move when the wind drops. This beest borrows features from its forebears: Ordis legs, Apodiacula outrigger skis, and Adulari sweat glands and nose feelers.

Sadly, while there were some demonstrations of this thing actually moving (!), there wasn’t one in the near future. Would have been awesome to see though.


A view down the side – note all the plastic bottoms along the top there.

Assuming this was a “sweat gland,” though not really sure how that’s supposed to work.

Another view of the side.

Nearby, I got in line to check out Animaris Ordis, a beest that visitors could walk with.

And here is a video from the official website, showing some of the creatures in motion on the beach:

Balcony exploration.

On my way out, I spotted this bust on the second floor.

Ira J. Bach (1906 – 1985)
City and Regional Planner (1940 – 1985)

“In developing a general plan, we must look at the city as if it were going to be entirely rebuilt – because a healthy city naturally rebuilds itself in the long run.”

Jung Family Vacation in Grand Beach, Michigan – Day 1
Jung Family Vacation in Grand Beach, Michigan – Day 2
Waiting For The End In New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Ian Rogers: Abecedary – Group Names of Birds and Beasts

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave A Reply