New Long-Term Exhibit at Grace Farms Offers Insights into Forced Labor in the Building Materials Supply Chain

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With Every Fiber Designed By Studio Cooke John Architecture + Design

to Open May 4, 2024


A rendering of the exhibit With Every Fiber, designed by Studio Cooke John Architecture + Design, opening May 4, 2024 at Grace Farms; visualization by Hayes Davidson

On May 4, 2024, Grace Farms will open a new long-term exhibit, With Every Fiber, which aims to inspire people to understand and care about the materials that make up the built world around us. Forced labor is pervasive in our building materials supply chain worldwide, and it is only now being addressed through a collaborative global movement called Design for Freedom, which launched at Grace Farms in 2020.

Sharon Prince, Grace Farms CEO and Founder, said, “First the food industry was called to be accountable to fair labor and supply chain transparency, then fashion, and now shelter is being called to account.”

With Every Fiber is Grace Farms Foundation’s first major initiative to bring the Design for Freedom movement to the public. To do so, Chelsea Thatcher, curator of the exhibit and Grace Farms Creative Director, brought together some of the most committed and innovative leaders in the movement to contribute. The work of 20 preeminent designers, material suppliers, artists, cultural institutions, and construction industry leaders are featured in the exhibit, including Studio Cooke John Architecture + Design, Pentagram, Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture, Buro Happold, MillerKnoll, Sherwin-Williams, Sciame Construction, New Canaan Library, Serpentine Galleries, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Joy Harjo, Carrie Mae Weems, Alyson Shotz, Hayes Davidson, Delta Light, Nucor, and North American Stainless.

Chelsea Thatcher, Chief Strategy Officer and Founding Creative Director of Grace Farms Foundation said: “This exhibit is a dynamic environment in which people can pause and consider the hands making our building materials. With Every Fiber is a composition of collaboration; it weaves together the agency each of us has to design a more humane future for all.”

The exhibit is designed by Studio Cooke John Architecture + Design. Its Principal, Nina Cooke John, one of the first architects in the U.S. to commit to embarking on a Design for Freedom Pilot Project, tracked materials for fair labor in a public monument supported by the City of Newark, N.J., called Shadow of a Face, celebrating the life of Harriet Tubman. The concrete cast of Tubman’s eye, used in the creation of the monument, is on view in With Every Fiber.

Nina Cooke John said, “With Every Fiber responds to Design for Freedom’s efforts to remove the veil covering the reality of unethical labor practices in the construction industry. The exhibit draws Grace Farms visitors – neighbors from across the street and design professionals from around the world – into the space and invites them to contemplate what goes into making our homes, places of work, cultural spaces, and sites for commemoration.”

Cooke John collaborated with MillerKnoll, the first global manufacturing and retail company to support the Design for Freedom movement, to wrap the exhibit in a new façade using a Maharam textile that creates what she calls a “shadow wall” to invite the viewer to notice the architecture in a new way.

Arts institutions and artists, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, artist Carrie Mae Weems, and international humanitarian photographer, Lisa Kristine, all have contributed at various stages of the movement to draw attention to the ethical layers of this cause. Their art is presented anew in the exhibit.

On view is the poem Honoring, by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, who was a featured speaker at Grace Farms in 2023, and a text by artist Carrie Mae Weems, whose piece reminds us to “consider the men, women and children who make your lives easier, and theirs harder.” Weems was also a contributor to Grace Farms’ Design for Freedom Report. Also on view are several photos by humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine, including Red, Blue, Black, 2010, from her ongoing Modern Day Slavery series that documents the pain of forced labor and the hope of freedom for those who are exploited.

The most significant audio component includes an immersive 18-minute recording by a quartet of the London Philharmonic Orchestra of three short works by Purcell, Dvořák, and Mozart.  The selection was initially curated and performed by a string quartet on June 12, 2022, UN World Day Against Child Labor, in London during the opening of the 2022 Serpentine Pavilion — Black Chapel by Theaster Gates, a Design for Freedom Pilot Project.

Ethical Decarbonization is a new term proposed by Grace Farms CEO and Founder Sharon Prince with Anna Dyson, Founder of Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture (Yale CEA), which recognizes the link between the climate crisis and the embodied suffering of forced labor in the building materials supply chain. The term also illuminates the need to pursue decarbonization strategies that protect ecosystems and those that live within them. Ethical decarbonization is presented for the first time in this exhibit through research, objects for the viewer to interact with, and an immersive biomaterials installation. The biomaterials installation by Yale CEA on view emphasizes the relationship between culture and sustainability by featuring several indigenous materials that are part of UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage and harvested while keeping ecosystems intact or even improved. The materials are dyed in variations of indigo, referencing a long and complicated history with global trade and labor practices. The biomaterials installation will become the key feature of a full-scale Pavilion at COP 30 in Brazil. Once the biowall is removed, new components and displays will be added to the exhibit to highlight new, innovative materials that prioritize fair labor and sustainability.

The objects presented in the exhibit are examples of Yale CEA’s research into emerging new materials that are made with circular processes, such as a car part made from agricultural waste.

Anna Dyson, Founder of Yale CEA said: “If we transition our materials to circular processes, we will reduce the amount of extractive industries that destroy the environment and are among the highest risk for forced labor and unfair labor practices.”

The exhibit itself became a site for research and the development of new methods of exhibit design and material tracking. Buro Happold and Grace Farms created the first Ethical Decarbonization Score Sheet; a simplified way of merging the tracking of carbon and fair labor. Buro Happold also conducted a neurodiversity study, which informed the exhibit’s design to make it as inclusive as possible. In addition, Hayes Davidson developed the virtual With Every Fiber exhibit, layering in new ways for the viewer to understand the journey of the exhibit materials.

Eddie Opara, Partner, Pentagram, led the graphics for the exhibit, and said: “Bringing the With Every Fiber exhibit to life was a year-long journey marked by wonderful collaborations and shared vision. Along with architect Nina Cooke John of Cooke John, Anna Dyson, and the team at the Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture and Grace Farms, we at Pentagram engaged in a deeply creative process, crafting an exhibit that informs and inspires. This endeavor exemplifies how determination, teamwork, and a commitment to ethical practices can initiate real change. It’s been a joy to see how diverse minds uniting for a cause can showcase what is possible and light a path toward a more equitable and sustainable future. It is truly a leap in the right direction.”

Gabe Guilliams, Principal, Buro Happold, said: “With Every Fiber, has been an exciting opportunity to approach material selection simultaneously through lenses of both embodied carbon and ethical sourcing. We’ve recognized positive synergies between the two for materials like locally sourced wood, which has a simple supply chain. Most goods in the construction industry have more complex supply chains, where labor practices at raw material points of extraction are commonly unknown. We will continue our research and our demand for transparency to improve working conditions for all laborers in the AEC industry.”

Joe Mizzi, President, Sciame, contributed in-kind installation management, and said: “Sciame Construction is extremely proud of our role as a pioneering contributor to Design for Freedom since its inception in 2018. With Every Fiber stands as an important milestone resulting from years of collaborative efforts with the Design for Freedom Working Group, and is reflective of our steadfast commitment to this vital, industry transforming initiative.’”

Neil Hughes, Joint Managing Partner, Hayes Davidson, said: “Hayes Davidson is delighted to partner with Grace Farms and help bring its Design for Freedom initiatives to the widest possible audience through the virtual With Every Fiber exhibit.”

Maharam contributed in-kind textiles to support Nina Cooke John’s artistic vision for the exhibit. Debbie Propst, President of Global Retail for MillerKnoll and a member of Design for Freedom’s Working Group said: “In addition to ensuring our built environments are developed humanely, it is important that the products that live within them also represent the same code of principles. Nina Cooke John’s poignant work and what she has created for Grace Farms with Maharam’s specialized textiles strongly reflects this. A part of the MillerKnoll collective, Maharam’s commitment to creating textiles that offer a reduced environmental impact is a matter of its corporate and design philosophy.”

The exhibit will be free and open to the public at Grace Farms and will be updated annually with new material highlights and artwork. It will also be available online as a virtual exhibit designed by Hayes Davidson, accessible by link to all. Visitors to the exhibit will have the opportunity to learn more through the Bloomberg Connects app and other supporting technology.


Support was provided by ASSA ABLOY and Anahata Foundation.

In-kind donations for the materials used in the exhibit were provided by MillerKnoll, Sherwin-Williams, North American Stainless, Nucor, Delta Light, Phoenix Tube Company, Inc. Each of these suppliers has examined their supply chains and tracked the provenance of the materials used along with the team at Grace Farms.