The Architect’s Garden

Innovative Microarchitecture Design Juxtaposes the Artificial and Natural

Berlin-based company SEREIN delivers bespoke architecture and fine art projects, usually for display in public spaces. One of their latest works, Penrose Garden is in situ outside the Open Innovation Space in Berlin, so the design had to be fittingly forward-thinking. “We began by considering what we think of as ‘impossible’ and why accept anything as such,” Serein’s Anastasia Shtein explained. “Innovation isn’t anything more than a belief, and when one is liberated from that belief and no longer thinks of anything as impossible, that is where true innovation and achievement begin.”

Penrose Garden features a natural wood base, and laser-cut plastic ‘flowers,’ made up of Penrose triangles, famously portrayed in the work of M.C. Escher. The design also deliberately embraces ambiguity and confusion, much like Escher’s work, it plays tricks on the mind when viewed from different angles.


“Accepting confusion, ambiguity, irrational feelings, and doubt is a difficult but very rewarding way to reach out to more, break beliefs, and embrace innovation.”

SEREIN describe their work as either microarchitecture or concept art, but they say they can’t make up their own minds about whether their work is art or design.

Anastasia was eager to divulge more details:

The Plus: Can you explain the idea behind ‘microarchitecture’?
Anastasia Shtein:
We use some principles from conceptual art, together with ideas about the administration and optimisation of space. Administration has to do with defining the purpose of the space, while optimisation concerns geometry: lines, angles, and also movement and time (aging). The microarchitecture might or might not have functionality, however it is always site specific and with meaning, with a very high attention to detail.

TP: What do you think is innovative about this project?
It is ambiguous. From a distance, as well as close up, it is comfortable and pretty. But when one walks alongside it the brain picks up the patterns within and becomes confused, almost subconsciously noticing that the correct pattern ‘breaks’ and trying to take the flower and turn it to its ‘right’ position in their head. This is because our brain automatically wants to understand everything and put it in the right order. Also, at some angles the flowers melt into an elusive and blurry picture and all pattern suddenly disappears. It was important to us to achieve this effect.

TP: What was the thinking behind the juxtaposition of the natural wood and the very technological Laser-cut elements?
We did not think about it until people started asking. It is rather a juxtaposition of freehand site specific work (the landscape created by Yoraco Gonzalez on site, which is a rough and masculine), and the precision and pattern of the delicate digitally engineered flowers (by Anastasia Shtein). One important aspect is that one cannot repeat the work elsewhere. Not in the same way, as there is no sketch or technical record of either the landscape or pattern of the flowers.

TP: What do statement do you think the Penrose Garden makes?
Much like the dialogue between Alice and the doorknob:
‘Alice: I simply must get through!
Doorknob: Sorry, you’re much too big. Simply impassible.
Alice: You mean impossible?
Doorknob: No, impassible. Nothing’s impossible.’

Penrose Garden, site specific installation, Berlin, 2015.
By Anastasia Shtein and Yoraco González of SEREIN Konzeptkunst & Mikroarkitektur.
Photography by Jan Brockhaus.
Laser cutting by Martin Bauer
Digital Engineering by David Bizer