June 15, 2005 | General


BioCycle June 2005, Vol. 46, No. 6, p. 34
New York City pier becomes home to a project featuring postindustrial design and recycled/reusable fixtures … plus transportability.
Karen Kelly

ARCHITECTURE may seem an unlikely place for a fantastic use for shipping crates, recycled cardboard tubing and a handmade fabric curtain made of one million pressed paper tea bags from Sri Lanka. But the Nomadic Museum, now located on Pier 54 in New York City, has transformed these objects into a one-of-a-kind structure that not only utilizes these materials but has transformed them into a creative architectural style while incorporating sustainable practices.
The museum, the first of its kind in the world, was designed by Principal Architect Shigeru Ban of Tokyo and Associate Architect Dean Maltz of New York. Ban refers to the project as “sustainable postindustrial design utilizing recycled, reusable and reduced materials.” The entire structure is 67 feet wide and 672 feet long and is his first building in New York City. Another piece of Ban’s work is the paper tube arch in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art. He created the Paper Church in Japan and, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Paper Refugee Shelter made of plastic sheets and paper tubes.
The outside of the Nomadic Museum is made up of 148 used steel cargo containers, stacked and secured to a height of 34 feet for the walls and a roof peak of 56 feet. The columns and roof supports are composed of specially designed paper tubes made of recycled paper and include an inner and outer waterproof “membrane” coated with waterproof sealant. The fabric sheath of pressed tea bags is used as an inner lining for the structure, blocking the openings between the crates. The main pathway through the exhibit is 12 feet wide made of recycled scaffold planking, bordered by river stones. Thirty-seven of the containers will be used to ship the exhibit and structure to the next exhibition site
Work began on the structure in September 2004. Construction on the pier and container erection began in January 2005 and was completed in February 2005. Work could not continue during periods of high winds as the shipping crates would be blown away once hoisted for placement. The workers placed an American flag at the scene that signaled when it was safe to hoist the containers. If the flag was waving, it wasn’t safe; if it was still, it was okay to go ahead. Because the crane was too heavy for the pier, a barge was brought in from which it could operate to place the containers in the unique checkerboard pattern.
The Nomadic Museum, aptly named considering its ability to be transported and reerected in areas around the world, is not only an architectural wonder, but a unique example of utilizing available materials to create a structure worthy to house one of the most interesting and beautiful photographic displays available. The museum houses Ashes and Snow, an exhibit of 100, 6 by 9 photographs by Gregory Colbert, suspended in mid-air beneath the sweeping fabric curtain suspended 40 feet above the floor. The massive structure offers the perfect setting for the display of photos depicting the “mystical” interaction of humans and some of the most exotic creatures on the planet including African elephants, manatees, sperm and humpback whales, cheetahs, zebras, wild dogs and meerkats.
The first “port of call” for the museum was in Venice at a 125,000 square foot fifteenth century Italian Navy shipyard. It was the largest solo exhibit ever shown in Italy with more than 100,000 people attending the three-month show.
Transportability of the museum is an important part of the overall design as it blends well with the transitory nature of the exhibit itself. The show is hosted by the Hudson River Park Trust which receives a fee for use of the pier.
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