Volume 17 • Issue 36 | February 4 - 10, 2005

Museum to camp on a pier for 3 months

Downtown Express photo by Talisman Brolin
The temporary museum is being built from shipping containers.

By Hemmy So

Work is finishing on a colossal temporary museum, made from 148 shipping containers, on Pier 54 at W. 13th St.

Recently relocated from Venice, the Nomadic Museum, designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, creates a 45,000-sq.-ft. space from the multi-colored steel shipping containers and recycled paper tubes — used to make the roof.

“Ashes and Snow,” a multi-media exhibit by artist Gregory Colbert, opens on March 5 in the Nomadic Museum and runs through June 6. The exhibit includes 199 large-scale photographs and a one-hour 35-mm film edited by Oscar winner Pietro Scalia and narrated by actor Lawrence Fishburne.

“I hope the Nomadic Museum will create an unforgettable experience, demonstrating unique architectural concepts and sustainable practices with a post-industrial feel,” Ban said.

Ban is known for his structures made from unexpected materials, including the Paper Tube Arch in the Museum of Modern Art sculpture garden.

Ban was also part of THINK, the architectural team that was the finalist to design the World Trade Center site plan. His team’s plan, the Towers of Culture, included two lattice structures in the shape of the Twin Towers.

The Nomadic Museum’s interior will feature a floating library with cameras projecting images of Colbert’s books on the walls. Above the wooden walkway entrance, an almost-translucent handmade curtain made of 1 million pressed paper tea bags from Sri Lanka will fall 40 ft. above museumgoers’ heads.

Colbert’s photographs comprise the bulk of the exhibit. Contexualized in a fictional account of a man’s travels, the photos display Colbert’s own journeys to Asia, Africa and Antarctica to capture interactions between man and animal.

The Hudson River Park Trust is hosting the exhibit, which is organized by the nonprofit Bianimale Foundation. Conceived by Colbert and environmentalist Giuli Cordara, Bianimale Foundation encourages artistic endeavors to increase public support for the protection and conservation of animals and their natural habitats.

“I think it’s a wonderful exhibit,” said Christopher Martin, said the Trust’s vice president of public affairs. “It’s something that’s definitely interesting to see and emotionally moving as well.”

Martin said there had been no objections from the community about giving the pier over for three months to the museum.

“No, not at all. There was a very warm reception from the community,” he said, noting the proposal was well received by Community Board 2’s Waterfront Committee. “It’ll be finished by the time the summer season starts. It’s not the time of heaviest use.”

Martin said the Trust will get $300,000 rent from the Nomadic Museum.

Don MacPherson, chairperson of C.B. 2’s Waterfront Committee, said initially the museum wanted the pier during the peak summer season and into the fall, but the committee got the project to change the dates. Also, he said, the committee got the museum to add one day a week free admission. “We will hold them to it,” he said. The project was approved by C.B. 2’s full board a few months ago.

Admission to the museum will cost $12 for adults and $6 for seniors and students with I.D.

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