Lonely Planet Writer

Slide through a 15th-century Florence palazzo as part of an art installation

The swirling slides installed at a palazzo in Florence may look like a child’s dream playground, but the art installation is actually there to explore the relationship between plants and people.

The slides twist through the Palazzo in Florence. Image by Martino Margheri

Palazzo Strozzi, a Florence cultural institution in a Renaissance mansion, is currently home to The Florence Experiment. The work was created by artist Carsten Höller and scientist Stefano Mancuso to study the interaction of plants and humans. If you’re wondering how it works, each week a random selection of visitors head down the slides carrying a bean plant, which they then pass on to a team of scientists who try to determine the “photosynthetic parameters and molecules emitted” during their slide, comparing it to other plants that have taken the ride or have not been down at all.

The Florence Experiment Slides, 2018 (Rendering by Michele Giuseppe Onali). Image by Palazzo Strozzi

The unique experience is designed to look at the way people see and interact with plant life. While Höller’s artwork centres on art, science, and technology, – and frequently involves slides – Mancuso founded the study of plant neurobiology and researches plant intelligence and capacity to communicate.

Slide through the Palazzo Strozzi on a project where art meets science. Image by Martino Margheri

But the whimsical slides only make up the first part of the experience. The second part brings visitors to two different theatres, one showing excerpts from horror films and the other showing comedies. With the idea that those watching will produce chemical compounds based on their fear of joy, that is then brought through two ducts to Wisteria plants, where they will see whether or not that influences the plant’s growth.

Visitors to the 15th-century mansion will find plenty of art exhibitions, theatre performances, and a café where guests can relax and soak up the atmosphere. The exhibition runs until 26 August and ticket information can be found here.