Each year the Metropolitan Museum of Art commissions an artwork for their rooftop terrace. I stopped by the museum last week for the unveiling of “Big Bambu” by the Starn Twins, an immense bamboo installation with ramps and passages nestled inside.
I was surprised to find that the piece was still under construction. The Starn Twins intend to add onto it continuously through the summer, so that it’s continually evolving. There were construction materials piled in one corner and, crawling over the frame like insects, dozens of workers continuing to build it upwards.
Bamboo poles are a common scaffolding material in China and particularly Hong Kong. They’re strong but much more flexible than steel. The American construction workers weren’t wearing hardhats or harnesses so I wondered if they received any special training beforehand, and if they’re union. And I wondered how the Met got approval for this project from the New York City Building Department.
Apparently the Starn Twins prepared highly precise, engineered construction drawings for “Big Bambu.” I didn’t see any drawings on the site. But the structure seemed, somehow, logical. The bamboo poles rest directly on the stone patio deck and are laced together with lengths of thick, colored rope. Hard to believe that this simple way of building can support a structure that will be fifty feet tall!