Big Bambú on the Roof

Who would have thought that the combination of bamboo poles and nylon rope could produce such a massive, intricate structure?  Doug and Mike Starn’s new site-specific installation, Big Bambú: You Can’t, You Don’t, and You Won’t Stop, has taken over the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I was awestruck during my visit last Friday – only the first of many more visits.

Over 5,000 bamboo poles have been put together in every which way with fifty miles of colorful nylon rope.  The structure, which might look like a giant bird’s nest from afar, is a feast for the eyes – especially for anyone interested in sculpture or architecture.  It also happens to be full of gorgeous contradictions.  The poles are thin and delicate, but based on touch are strong and earthy.  Although the poles are from Georgia and South Carolina and suggest that Big Bambú is a design rooted in nature, the colorful nylon rope is a reminder to viewers that it’s still a human-made structure (several artists and rock climbers were responsible for building it).  Set against New York’s skyline and overlooking the canopy of Central Park’s trees, the structure creates incredible contrasts and complexity.  From one angle it looks messy and chaotic in comparison to the neat rows of buildings, while from another angle it appears organized, organic, and rather peaceful compared to the changing landscape of the park’s greenery.  The ends of the poles poke out beyond the roof – sharply piercing the skyline – but as a whole Big Bambú creates a flowing wave.  Frightening as it may be to think that the structure is only held together with rope, this New York Times article revealed that it passed some serious load testing.

Amazingly, Big Bambú will continue to grow up to fifty feet high between now and its closing at the end of October.  In addition to admiring the structure from the roof, visitors can take guided tours along its elevated pathways that reach twenty to forty feet above the roof.  It should be interesting to observe the structure evolve and grow until its closing, and the title makes perfect sense.  Once you see Big Bambú, you can’t, you don’t, and you won’t stop returning to see it again.

All photos by Evan Namerow

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