GIANT PURPLE PRICKLY PEAR
Imperial Valley Desert Museum
Design - Build
Photographs by Breyden Anderson
In the desert—a seemingly infinite expanse of sand with little vegetation or infrastructure to provide context of size—scale starts to disappear. Here the ‘Giant Purple Prickly Pear’ exists independently of external influences as an enigma in the vast arid environment. As visitors approach the structure, they are presented with an alternate vision of reality: as if they were tiny persons moving throughout a normal sized cactus garden.
The structure was designed using a fractal pattern based on principles found in nature. The work consists of dozens of semi-modular elements hand-cut into rounded shapes. These pieces are then stacked into a multifaceted structure that resembles desert flora. As the faceted pieces build in density, different spaces start to emerge. Visitors are encouraged to seek out and find new uses for these spaces.
During construction, multiple ply-materials were tested to determine the optimum deformation of the cactus in the wind. Through these tests, various wood boards were carefully chosen so that as the cactus scales up, it bends and responds in real-time to the changing environment around it. The result is a kinetic sculpture that becomes animate as it embodies different energies produced by the landscape.