Vivarium St. Marx – Biologiezentrum of the University of Vienna

… it shows that, despite all of our technology and money, when we destroy a natural system, it's virtually impossible to get it back. In a sense, we're building a failure… Mark Dion

Mark Dion designed a vivarium resembling a greenhouse for the foyer of the Biologiezentrum. The vivarium contains a tree trunk that was removed from the ecosystem of the construction site and inserted into the university context. It represents a link between inside and outside, between the past of the urban environment and the present of the scientific institution, and also serves as an identifier of this modern biology research centre.

The tree is both dead and alive – no longer nature but rather a representation of nature. Ripped out of its natural context, the tree carcass has already been colonised by moss and other types of ground cover. Thanks to the self-contained ecosystem inside the greenhouse, it is possible to observe the decomposition and transmutation process, which is extremely retarded due to the unchanging climatic conditions. The tree’s ongoing decay and its renewal represent nature as a complex system of cycles and processes and epitomise the principles of life and evolution.

Architect Vivarium: Paul Messner

The project was realised in cooperation with Faculty of Life Sciences and Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna.