Arbor Vitae consists of two elements: an exterior piece and an interior work. The exterior piece is a topographic satellite photograph of Colorado that was etched into black granite veneer and mounted to the wall of Coolbaugh Hall. The other component of the work is a terrazzo floor. Artist Peter Richards used a polymer chain molecule, developed by one of the professors at Colorado School of Mines, to determine the arrangement of the tiles in the floor. Each hexagonal tile features a dendritic image of either an inorganic or organic system. Examples of these images include lightning, barley, beach erosion, termite trails, a frost crystal, ash, metatarsals, slime mold, and the Colorado River Delta. A human brain held by hands is the central image. To the right, the images are organic, and to the left, they are inorganic. Richards wanted to express the connections made when patterns in nature and the manmade environment are recognized, as well as that learning occurs through a branching process.