A boxwood hedge is up to mischief in the Georg Kolbe Museum. The plastic planters that are standard in DIY stores roll through the exhibition room like a cute little train. The perfectly trimmed spheres are immaculate green. Unaffected by the brutal attack of the borer, whose infestation makes gardeners nightmares everywhere in historical parks.

No, Anne Duk Hee Jordan’s cute hedge is advancing unchecked. Will she hit the visitor’s shin? Only at the last moment does the digitally autonomous vehicle brake and take a different direction.

Meanwhile, director Julia Wallner is clearing her study next door. She is moving to the Arp Museum Rolandseck. Almost 10 years ago, she took over the idyllically situated but financially strapped museum in the studio home of the sculptor Kolbe.

She oversaw the refurbishment of the monument erected in 1927 and ordered the exhibition program to be given a makeover. In addition to persistent Kolbe archive research, she brought contemporary sculpture into the house.

It’s too beautiful here, which is precisely why she has to go, says Wallner. Her first exhibition in the Kolbe Museum was dedicated to Hans Arp, who, as a pioneer of abstraction, naturally has greater international appeal than Kolbe, who was born in 1877 and was attached to the figurative.

Exhibition plans are already in the drawer for a year in advance: in the autumn, for example, the ambivalent relationship between the sculptor and the Nazi regime finally came to the fore. This time it’s about other core issues.

“Artificial Biotopes” is the name of the exhibition that combines Mies van der Rohe, Kolbe and Lehmbruck with Anne Duk Hee Jordan’s installations. The complex interplay of architectural space, nature and figure is illuminated. The cheerfully thoughtless boxwood hedge is part of it. Water trickles in the main room, floating plants green in the basin. Slow-growing succulents with dangling aerial roots that no longer need contact with the ground are clinging to steel girders.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe also dealt with biomorphic structures and concepts of the plant kingdom. Dozens of scientific books were found in his library. But for the protagonists of classical modernism, nature was above all an aesthetic category, not a sphere threatened by existence as it is today. Perfectly placed rubber trees catch the eye in photos of the iconic Mies buildings. The architect was happy to design the gardens for his clients at the same time. Opening up the built space through generous glass walls became his trademark.

Why didn’t Mies also design the house of his sculptor friend Kolbe? He probably wanted to decide too much himself. The way in which inside and outside flow into one another in his domicile is obviously also inspired by Mies’ ideas. Anne Duk Hee Jordan draws attention to it. Color mirror foils on the studio windows alienate the view outside.

Inside, slowly rotating round mirrors allow the exhibited Kolbe sculptures to “wander” imaginarily through the fragmented space. The clever use of mirrors reveals that the artist studied with Olafur Eliasson. At the same time, her works address the fragility and threat of nature: at the time, this was not yet a pressing issue for Kolbe and company.

But the sculptor left the slender pine trees on the property when building his studio house; the old beech has now grown mightily over the roof.

The biotope of organic and geometric shapes in this studio oasis is finely tuned. Kolbe’s sculptures need architecture in order to have an effect. But Mies also needed sculptors like Kolbe or Lehmbruck. Only their concentrated, slender human figures gave his flowing spaces stability and measure. Enlarged photos that fill the wall show it.

Kolbe’s larger than life female figure “Morgen” dominated the legendary Barcelona Pavilion at the 1929 World’s Fair. This effective appearance was engraved in the cultural memory. The plaster figure is on display: gracefully raising her arms plant-like above her head.

Wilhelm Lehmbruck’s works are stricter, more brittle. The exhibition, first shown in the Mies-Bau Haus Lange in Krefeld, also includes him. Kolbe knew the slightly younger Duisburg sculptor from his Paris days. According to Julia Wallner, Lehmbruck was the only one besides Barlach whom Kolbe took seriously as a colleague. When the introverted Lehmbruck committed suicide in Berlin in 1919, avant-garde circles were horrified.

The works of both sculptors meet in a small exhibition room. Both stylized the female body into a slim, androgynous form. Lehmbruck’s “Pygmalion Statue” leans far forward with a gently curved spine. The torso seems to challenge the limits of gravity. The fact that such quiet works can unfold their aura is also due to how they are balanced. Sculpture without space? That would be unthinkable.