The pioneering work of Dutch scientist Arthur Loeb (1923–2002), who taught for many years in Harvard's Visual and Environmental Studies Department, established new ways of envisioning the world at macro and molecular scales and developing a language for the communication of elemental spatial concepts. The objects and prints from Dr. Loeb's personal teaching collections that are now at RISD illustrate core principles of pattern, symmetry, and structure found both in nature and the built environment. This type of visual/spatial thinking is increasingly recognized as fundamental to innovation and scientific creativity
The Dr. Arthur Loeb Design Science Teaching Collection was given to RISD in the early 2000s by Arthur Loeb's widow, Mrs. Charlotte Loeb, who intended it to become part of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab and for it to help students "develop investigative habits of mind and . . . competence at problem solving based on hands-on research with a wide array of biological and fabricated materials and processes." For both practical and preservation purposes, the collection has been housed since 2021 in Fleet Library and can be accessed for individual research and class instruction, in keeping with Mrs. Loeb's intentions, through the library's Visual + Material Resources Center.
The collection comprises 412 three dimensional structural and tensegrity models, including Loeb’s “Moduledra” prototypes, Stewart Coffin puzzles, and Dennis Dreher jitterbugs; Loeb's Symmetry Portfolio, 164 geometric silkscreens that present all infinitely tessellating symmetry systems possible in the plane, produced in collaboration with his teaching assistant, artist Holly Alderman; and books and papers related to the two collections.
If you would like to access any part of the Loeb Collection, please use the catalogs here as finding aids and, once you've made selections, contact the staff of the VMRC to make an appointment to view the physical items.