• Visitors at the i"Pollinator Pathmaker" in front of Naturkundemuseum Berlin

    Garden art from an insect’s perspective

‘Pollinator Pathmaker’ is the name given to the living work of art that is currently flowering, buzzing and fluttering in front of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (Berlin Natural History Museum). British artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg planted more than 7,000 flowers and grasses over a 700 square metre plot, accompanied by an algorithm and scientific support. Her approach is climate friendly and inspires others to get involved.

Cars hum along the Invalidenstrasse road. It’s early afternoon and the traffic in Berlin’s city centre is in full flow. The hot, summer air shimmers above the grey asphalt. Just a few metres up ahead – on the square in front of the entrance to the Berlin Natural History Museum – it’s a completely different story: more than 7,000 plants of 80 varieties are growing seemingly wildly in path-lined beds over a 722-square-metre plot. Poppies and cornflowers are blossoming alongside daisies, meadow sage, Balkan hogweed and spurge, intersected by all kinds of grasses. Wild bees, bumblebees and butterflies fly from petal to petal, sucking nectar and transporting pollen to the next plant and beyond the city.

Wild in appearance, systematic in design 

Urban gardening isn’t a new concept for Berlin. However, this little insect paradise goes one step further in terms of its design. “The ‘Pollinator Pathmaker’ is a climate-friendly work of art for other creatures,” explains British artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Supported by a team of scientists, she developed a plant algorithm to produce gardens and beds that are not only appealing to the human eye, but also to various pollinators. “Insects view the world differently to us,” says Ginsberg. Bees, for example, can’t see the colour red while butterflies can identify ultraviolet light that we can’t see.” The Pollinator plant algorithm takes the specific needs and habits of different pollinators into account to create the ideal habitat. Above all, the artist wants to encourage people to empathise with other species and plant their own gardens to help protect species diversity. “I firmly believe that by planting art instead of just looking at it, we build a compassionate relationship with it,” she says explaining her approach, adding: “In doing so, we’re not just putting nature on display but appreciating it as a work of art in and of itself.”

AI-generated landscaping plan with a personal touch

Similar to the artwork of the Land Art Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s, ‘Pollinator Pathmaker’ integrates nature into works of art. Modelled after the ‘social sculpture’ theory by Joseph Beuys, Ginsberg’s living artwork is a project based on human intervention. Anyone can use the tool to become a garden artist, whether it’s on a balcony or in a private garden. The landscaping plan is freely accessible via the website Pollinator.art. In a matter of clicks, you can specify the size of the planting area, its location, soil properties and light conditions. The “empathy” part encourages a personal touch. Here, the desired quantity of plant species can be identified, whether a small garden should be simple or complex in its design and whether inspects should eventually fly straight or zig-zag over the terrain. The Pollinator then produces a list of suitable plants in PDF format including planting instructions and a subdivided landscaping plan down to the exact square metre. The tool also lists suitable alternatives in case certain plants are difficult to find. A particularly nice touch: all flowers and grasses have been lovingly illustrated by the artist for clarification.

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg developed the insect-friendly landscaping tool in 2020 together with a team of computer scientists, biologists and horticultural experts for the ‘Eden Project’:
In 2021, the first Pollinator Pathmaker edition was implemented in Cornwall. In 2022, she planted a second edition in front of the Serpentine Galleries in London. In May 2023, financed and supported by the LAS Art Foundation and in collaboration with the Berlin Natural History Museum, the third edition was put into motion which will be available to view in front of the museum by the end of 2026. The tool was specially upgraded with a landscaping feature for Berlin and use throughout Germany, which is growing and thriving under continental Europe’s climate conditions.

Networking with schools, associations and non-profit organisations

The Pollinator Pathmaker is a living work of art that networks people and which is continuously evolving, whether it’s the many landscape gardeners who use the tool to create their own works of floral art, the pollinating insects who transport pollen outside of the city or the schools, associations and non-profit organisations supported by the LAS Art Foundation to create DIY gardens using the Pollinator algorithm. Previous participants have included the ‘School at the Jungfernheide’ in Siemensstadt and the ‘Green Campus Malchow’ along with urban gardening projects in the Gleimviertel and Tempelhofer Feld areas. The Natural History Museum offers a supporting educational programme that teaches students about the importance of insects for our environment. They can also take part in citizen science projects. “The Pollinator Pathmaker’s message is all about empathy,” says Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. “It’s about recognising that humans don’t always come first.” Even building an insect hotel can help to view the world from other creatures’ points of view, such as bees, butterflies and ladybirds and take small steps to change it. The Pollinator Pathmaker is an experiment. Climate change and species extinction can’t be stopped by the project alone. However, it encourages us to think and perhaps also change our mindset. That’s what art is all about.

Further information

‘Pollinator Pathmaker’: 20 June 2023 to 1 November 2026, square in front of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 43, 10115 Berlin


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