Phipps recommends:
Cornelian Cherry Dogwood



As a sculptor, Dee Briggs works primarily with carbon and Cor-ten steel, aluminum, bronze and concrete. She is currently constructing a large-scale, ceiling mounted sculpture for the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL). Featuring highly ordered geometric forms which will cascade through all three floors of the CSL atrium, the installation will create an unexpected rhythmic space containing limitless perceptual contradictions: three-dimensional patterns that are at once familiar and foreign, heavy forms that imply weightlessness, and delightful spatial experiences. We took a few minutes with Dee to discuss this exciting new installation, which visitors can expect to see this summer.

How did you first become interested in sculpting?  

In 1999, while in graduate school studying architecture, I was asked to explore building materials at a human scale using my hands – that was really the beginning.

What mediums do you work in?  

I’m interested in all materials but tend toward material used in the building industry, like steel, aluminum and concrete.  

Where do you get the inspiration for your sculptures?  

It depends on the type of work. You can pretty neatly divide my work into formal/spatial or social/political. The formal/spatial work is inspired to a large degree by geometry and this is how I would describe the piece I’m making for the CSL atrium. The social/political work is always inspired by the situation or context.

Can you describe the concept of the piece you are creating for the CSL?

The ideas, or concepts, I have been dealing with and exploring in my work are based in mathematics, architecture and experience. I am particularly interested in geometry, symmetry and rhythm – line, plane and volume – visual perception and spatial understanding.

Much of my work to date has grown out of a specific obsession with chirality (a property of asymmetry), or handedness. This is the governing principle in the CSL sculpture. Three-dimensional objects that are chiral do not have an internal plane of symmetry and can be mirrored three dimensionally, but the left and right cannot be superimposed. Chirality is a very common characteristic in many areas of chemistry and biology. It describes parts (left and right) of the human body, like our hands. Using very simple geometric forms – in this case circles – I apply this more complex operation of symmetry and create the components and compositions of my work.

The CSL project is site specific, incorporating elements of light and movement, allowing me to create a dialogue with the architectural context and a powerful human experience as the work becomes experiential as visitors move up and down the atrium staircase.

What impact do you hope your piece has on CSL visitors?

I hope that it will excite and intrigue them and encourage visitors of all ages to think about nature’s many complex systems. 

Photo © Natalia Gomez

Other Featured Exhibits & Events

Summer Flower Show
May 10 – Oct. 5, 2014
The whimsical miniature world of Garden Railroad takes center stage at Phipps this summer. With themed railroad displays in multiple exhibit rooms enhanced by unique plantings, interactive features and more, this show will bring the wonder of childhood to visitors of all ages.
Romero the Corpse Flower
Turns Over a New Leaf
Last year, he wowed thousands with his inimitable odor, and this year, he’s back with an amazing new look. After 10 dormant months, Romero has produced an enormous leaf to collect energy for his next big bloom. Visit the Tropical Forest Conservatory to see his transformation firsthand.
Farmers at Phipps
Wednesdays, June – October 2014
2:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Refresh your food shopping experience! Visit our sustainably managed front lawn to browse organic and Certified Naturally Grown fruits, vegetables and more from local farms.
BETA Art Tours
First and third Saturdays, July – October 2014
11 a.m. – noon
Discover the BETA Project, a new collection of art at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes designed to enhance and restore the bonds between people and the natural world. Tours are free for members; however, space is limited and reservations are required by the Thursday prior to each tour date. To reserve, please contact us at 412/622-6915, ext. 6505 or
Tropical Forest India Festival
Sept. 21, 2014
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Join us in the Tropical Forest Conservatory for our final Tropical Forest India festival as we celebrate plants, food and culture through fun activities, live music, food tastings and more. The festival is free with Phipps admission.
Members-Only: Peek Behind the Petals
Sept. 27, 2014
9:30 – 10:15 a.m.
Take a fascinating look at the global adventures of our Botany in Action Fellows at this edition of our members-only Peek Behind the Petals series. This event is free for members; however, space is limited and reservations are required by Sept. 20. To reserve, please contact us at 412/622-6915, ext. 6505 or
Botany in Action: Meet the Scientists
Sept. 27, 2014
1 – 2:30 p.m.
Our Botany in Action fellows will be stationed throughout the Tropical Forest India exhibit to display their research tools, answer your questions and offer intriguing details about the work of field scientists.
Biophilia: Pittsburgh
Next Meeting Oct. 2, 2014
6 p.m., with networking and refreshments at 5:30 p.m.
Biophilia: Pittsburgh is the pilot chapter for a Biophilia Network of creative minds meeting monthly to discuss strengthening the bond between people and the natural world through education, discussion and action. Meetings are free to attend; advance RSVP is required. Join the conversation!
Party in the Tropics
Select Fridays
Next Party Oct. 3, 2014
7 – 11 p.m.
Ages 21+
Gather your friends and get ready to dine, drink and dance the night away at Phipps! Make our paradise your own as you indulge in sweet and savory morsels, taste unique cocktails, and dance to the beats of a live DJ in our Tropical Forest Conservatory. Entry is free with Conservatory admission.
Native Plant and Sustainability Conference
Nov. 1, 2014
8:30 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.
William Pitt Union, University of Pittsburgh
Phipps’ annual Native Plant and Sustainability Conference brings together national experts for a one-day forum on plants, landscapes and our roles as environmental stewards. This year’s program pairs an entomologist with a landscape designer to help illuminate how a well-designed landscape can be a place of beauty while fulfilling several important ecological functions.
Garden Railroad
Now Open
A unique twist on the traditional Garden Railroad, this year's display takes you to Phipps Prehistoric Park — a whimsical world where dinosaurs are brought back to life! Full of surprises, detailed models, moving parts and trains, this can't-miss exhibit is a thrilling adventure for all ages.
Tropical Forest India
Now Open
Explore our new exhibit showcasing one of the most botanically rich regions of the world. Highlights include an Ayurvedic healing garden, spice and tea market displays, a stunning temple facade on Special Events Hall, and more!