Crochet Coral Reef

The Crochet Coral Reef (CCR) was started in 2005 by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring in Los Angeles. This project resides at the intersection of mathematics, marine biology, handicraft and community art practice, and also responds to the environmental crisis of global warming and the escalating problem of oceanic plastic trash.

Origins of Crocheted Hyperbolic Plane

Through Margaret Wertheim’s work as a science writer she discovered Dr. Daina Taimina, a mathematician who in 1997 figured out how to make models of hyperbolic geometry using crochet. Hyperbolic geometry is naturally found in the anatomies of many reef organisms including many species of corals, kelps, sponges, and sea slugs. In 2004 and 2005 Dr Taimina gave several lectures for the Institute about her work and in 2005 the IFF hosted an exhibition of purely mathematical hyperbolic crochet pieces made by Dr. Taimina, Margaret, and Christine. After exploring the geometry of these forms and then deliberately deviating from the perfect mathematical versions, Margaret and Christine came to understand that these are the forms embodied in living reefs.

In this TED Talk video, IFF co-founder Margaret Wertheim discusses the use of crochet to illustrate hyperbolic geometry and its role in coral creation.