Bamboo Sculpture in NYC

August 13th, 2008 by tomitadesigns

Another build by the Bamboo DNA crew.  We built a 80ft tall 10ft diameter bamboo structure at the All Points West Music Festival at Liberty Point State Park featuring Radiohead and Jack Johnson.  There are no mechanical fasteners- everything is held together in tension by woven bamboo slats.

The setting was nothing short of spectacular.  The NYC skyline, Ellis Island, and the statue of liberty right in front of us.  The park is so huge and wide open it was a strange experience to be so close to manhattan and feel so alone.  The structure consists of 30 20ft long guadua bamboo poles.  We built a temporary 2×4 framework whose dimensions and positions were calculated in advance.

Bamboo poles were temorarily lashed to the framework.  Then, the real fun begins.  20ft long bamboo slats are woven into the structure in an alternating pattern.  Opposing forces create structure with enough redundancy and the framework can be removed.  This work is brutal, requiring teams of 3-5 people shoving the slats through inch by inch.

The work gets more difficult towards the tip of the cone.  As the radius gets tighter the tension and friction increase to the point where it takes four people lunging at once to move a slat an inch at times.  Both out of necessity and for style the slats start to angle upwards at the top.

The lift is always the most risky and exciting part of the project.  Without access to a large crane we had to do a delicate balance using a grade-all and forklift.  Luckily we have a rigging expert, Brandon on the team.  He made two rope rings that distributed the load evenly among the 12 columns for the lift.  These also became attachment points for the guy wires which he would rig later.

Once erected Brandon went to work with the guy wires.  After this point the power equipment went away and we adjusted the angle of tower purely with human power using a system of 6 pulleys.  The system creates a 6 to 1 power advantage.  With four people weighing a total of 600 lbs you can generate 3600 lbs of force.

The final day of the build was spent on touch up, building the deck, canopy feature, and lighting.  The deck is a 2x 6 structure clad in bamboo in a star of david pattern.  It also served to brace the structure during the lift.

Allen and James did a great job with the lighting.  They also setup a propane torch at the top of the spire, 80ft overhead.  All in all an impressive build.  10 people, 4.5 days.  This may be the tallest bamboo structure ever made in the US…..