Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents “Quicktake: Tangible Earth”

February 18, 2011
News Release

Tangible Earth, the world’s first digital interactive globe, will be on view at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in a special “Quicktake” installation from Feb. 18 through spring 2011. Conceived in 2001 by Shinichi Takemura, a professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design, this interactive digital globe is designed as an integrated media platform to raise awareness of global environmental issues.

The globe, which is 4 feet in diameter, shows dynamic changes in the world, using rigorous scientific data and speeding up the changes to show what is happening. The ocean currents, whose
fast-flowing streams are illuminated in yellows and reds, point out the importance of the Gulf Stream in keeping Northern Europe temperate. Sea-surface temperatures rise and fall seasonally, as if the oceans were breathing. The division between night and day is downloaded in real time, and the cloud formations are animated in a loop representing the past four days.

“Tangible Earth is a scale representation of the globe that allows people to understand the condition of our planet using interactive technology based on information provided by scientists from various fields,” said Bill Moggridge, director of the museum.

Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are captured in a sequence showing the historic accumulation of seismological events, with the shapes of the tectonic plates becoming more vivid as the animation builds. The devastating December 2004 tsunami is recreated, showing the waves speeding across the Indian Ocean from the epicenter of the event off the coast of Sumatra.

The globe provides a display of the movement of air pollutants—sulfur dioxide is shown in blue, nitrogen dioxide and carbon oxide form a mingled cloud of green and yellow. The greatest concentrations of swirling clouds are emitted from the vehicles and factories of the Northern Hemisphere, especially from the United States, China, Russia and Eastern Europe.

The photochemical smog can be seen moving around the whole globe, demonstrating that anything short of international regulation is pointless. Global warming is shown as predicted up to 2050, revealing the dramatic effect on the ice fields in the Arctic and Himalayas.

“Tangible Earth” is the fourth in a series of “Quicktake” installations aimed at showing the public vital up-and-coming design from around the world. In summer 2007, Cooper-Hewitt launched the “Quicktake” series with Doshi Levien’s Charpoy collection for Moroso, which debuted to critical acclaim at the 2007 Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the annual furniture fair in Milan, Italy. In 2010, Cooper-Hewitt presented “Quicktake: Rodarte,” which highlighted a selection of pieces from the Rodarte fashion collections, and “Quicktake: Tata Nano,” featuring the world’s most affordable car.

About the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor, and Sarah Hewitt—granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications.

The museum is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Public transit routes include the 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $15; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older, $10. Cooper-Hewitt and Smithsonian members and children younger than age 12 are admitted free. For further information, please call (212) 849-8400 or visit The museum is fully accessible.   

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