Nasher Sculpture Center | Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio

November 25, 2014

2014-11-20 20.36.23The first thing you see coming into this exhibit is a massive machine over 10 feet tall with rolls of paper and a crank that dispenses a gallery handout for you to tear off.  Turning that crank, I knew immediately that this was going to be my next blog post. I’m in Dallas for the MCN (Museum Computer Network) conference, so I’m not writing about a New York Museum this week.
UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo 2010

UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo 2010

Full length rod from UK Pavillion, with sample rod-tips with different seeds.

Full length rod from UK Pavillion, with sample rod-tips with different seeds.

This exhibit showcases the work of Thomas Heatherwick and his studio,  architects and designers who amuse and delight. One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit was the UK Pavilion at Shanghai World Expo 2010 aka The Seed Cathedral. The building bristles with 60,000 acrylic rods, which act as fiber optic pinlights. At the tip of each rod is a different seed, evoking the race to save seeds around the world in banks. In the exhibit there were pictures of the building, and there was one actual acrylic rod, and lots of  examples of the tips with seeds. The light coming  through the rod bursts out around the seeds. It’s quite incredible — the building hardly looks like a building, and light traveling through a curved rod seems like magic.

The “do not touch” policy in the gallery was quite frustrating to visitors of this exhibit — there was even an elevator button on display, which kept guards busy chastising visitors for pushing it. The back of a London bus, designed by the studio to invite passengers to jump on, was off limits to us in the exhibit. One exception was the Spun chair, made from spun metal or rotation molded plastic. This unique chair is symetrical in a way that allows the seat to be the backrest and vice versa. Sample chairs were set up outside the exhibit where visitors could spin in the chairs.

Rolling Bridge up. Photo by Cristina Bejarano.

Rolling Bridge down. Photo by Eric Gjerde

Tech bonus
The technological marvels in this exhibit are mechanical, not digital. Heatherwick’s signature piece is Rolling Bridge, a draw bridge that when it opens, curls all the way back onto itself in the shape of a wheel — it’s designed to be at least as attractive open as closed. The exhibit included photos and video of the small bridge that has been installed near Paddington Station, as well as a working model for a larger version, designed to go across the Thames, which has not been build. There was a crank sitting near the model but unfortunately no one was opening or closing the bridge.

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