Those who have spent a decent amount of time living in or visiting New York City are probably well aware that following particularly gusty rainstorms, the city streets become littered with a rather unique and unsightly form of urban detritus: snapped umbrellas.
Yes, New York has an umbrella litter problem.
You see, severe weather has a way of sneaking up on preoccupied New Yorkers who often fail to bring along adequate rain protection when leaving the house in the morning. And when the rain and wind starts to pick up, they find themselves scrambling to buy cheapo umbrellas from drugstores and pop-up parasol peddlers. Prone to malfunctioning and snapping in the wind, these portable canopies are viewed as disposable and are often unceremoniously discarded in public trashcans and on street corners once the rains have let up. I myself have a sizable collection of half-busted black bumbershoots that I bought on the fly.
Hundreds of New York’s broken and forsaken umbrellas, however, have been treated to a rather stunning afterlife thanks to Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi of SLO Architecture. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the husband-wife duo have launched Harvest Dome 2.0, a floating geodesic orb made from 450 wrecked umbrella skeletons supported by a buoyant ring composed of more than 100 solar LED-embedded two-liter plastic soda bottles. Measuring 24-by-18-feet, the dome — a work of “performance architecture” as Schachter and Levi liken it — can be found bobbing merrily along the Harlem River at the Inwood Hill Park Inlet in Upper Manhattan through the end of this month.
A “physical revelation of the city’s accumulated waterborne debris” that “calls attention to New York City’s waterways and watersheds,” Harvest Dome 2.0. is, as its name relays, actually the second incarnation of the Harvest Dome concept to be built by local teens and architecture interns.
The first sculpture was constructed during the summer of 2011 but the gods of floating upcycled art installations apparently weren’t too happy on the October day that the metallic sphere was transported via a pontoon of canoes from Hunts Point to the inlet at Inwood Hill Park. Severe weather caused the Harvest Dome to become unrigged at the mouth of the Bronx River and it drifted to Rikers Island of all places. It was subsequently discovered and destroyed by New York City Department of Correction officers (the “destroyed remains” were later salvaged) who didn’t know what to make of the alien, 24-foot diameter structure that had mysteriously arrived on the shores of New York's notorious jail complex.
So far, there have been no penal-related maroonings and the Harvest 2.0 has been attracting a fair amount of visitors — plenty of kayakers and curious ducks — at its Bronx River mooring since it was launched earlier this month.
So why Inwood Hill Park? The Harvest Dome 2.0 Kickstarter page explains:
The Inlet, Manhattan Island's last remaining Saltmarsh, is a remnant of Spuyten Duyvil Creek’s marshland, reconfigured and dredged in 1895 to create the Harlem River Shipping Canal. It is home to saltwater cordgrass, a species particularly adept at trapping and converting flotsam into the nutrient-rich mud called detritus, which supports abundant life on the marsh. Twice during the course of each day, the buoyant sphere will rise and fall with the tide— alternating between floating on the dark water and sitting on the uncovered mud-flat. The Dome engages circadian rhythms of the water and emerges from the mud-flat as a curiously out-scaled harvesting of human-generated urban flotsam.
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