The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Architect I. M. Pei's famed East Wing of the National Gallery has been re-imagined as a transparent lucite sculpture and map display to celebrate the launch of NGA's new StreetSmart visitor map to the Capital.
The sculpture and map are the work of the award-winning map designer and app publisher Stephan Van Dam and his team. Van Dam -- who holds several origami folding patents and has 26 of his maps in the MoMA collection -- was inspired by the building's sublime geometry. "It's the 18 degree acute angles of Pei's design which connect the Map and the Architecture to L'Enfant's urban plan of Washington DC, " says Van Dam. " Master Pei harnesses the energy of L'Enfant's grid, folds it in on itself and arguably creates the most forceful piece of architectural sculpture on The National Mall."
To build a transparent miniature of the East Wing with its knife-sharp 18 degree corners proved such a challenge that not a single architectural model-maker in the US dared fabricate it. Says Van Dam "they all got cold feet looking at those 18 degree angles. The challenge of making clean joints."
While the original marble-clad building has a steel frame with corner fins hidden under the marble skin, VanDam's model is totally transparent and reveals the museum's bones. Says Van Dam "With a clear model you can't hide the sins." When the museum asked for the model to be tactile so visitors could touch it like the real thing, Van Dam realized that by bending the acute corners all would be perfectly clear and soft to the touch.
A model shop in Shanghai took the plunge. The model was installed in the East Wing on December 3rd. "It's a work of art" says Chris Derderian, the NGA's Director of Retail Operations.
An official unveiling with a talk by the designer about mapping, miniatures, urban design and the making of the model is planned for the New Year.
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