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Just think of it as practice

January 15, 2006|Scott Timberg

WHEN the exhibition "Ashes and Snow" went up in New York last year, there was a lot of talk about its being a new way to put on an art show. A multimillion-dollar project in which large photographs by Gregory Colbert are displayed in a structure designed by esteemed Tokyo architect Shigeru Ban out of shipping containers and used teabags, the exhibit was billed as a recyclable, sustainable effort that would serve as a model for exhibits to come.

The reason? This so-called Nomadic Museum -- which was scheduled to open adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday and then to travel next to Beijing -- was to reuse some of its materials, including the cargo containers and tea bags.

But green though it may be, it is perhaps not as green as it could or should have been, according to Bob Meeks, a general contractor at the Santa Monica site.

"What they did was weld a lot of it together instead of clipping them together," says Meeks, a superintendent at RMS Group, of the way the shipping containers were affixed in New York. "So we had to cut it apart. They trashed the whole thing, pretty much."

As a result, he says, RMS had to start virtually from scratch when setting up the project in Santa Monica. "This thing has been redesigned from New York," he says. "That didn't work at all."

For his part, New York-based Dean Maltz, who served as associate architect of the exhibit's Hudson River Park appearance, says that although there was some welding of materials, no unforeseen problems occurred.

And Paul Hawken, president of the project, maintains that Santa Monica has extremely strict building codes because of wind and earthquake risk, so "the New York structure wouldn't have worked here." Now, he says, having been retooled "for the strictest codes in the world, this can go anywhere in the world. We're becoming nomadic animals after being domestic animals."

Either way, contractor Meeks hopes the redesign, which leaves here May 14, will allow the folks in Beijing to proceed more smoothly. "They will have a perfect set of plans," he says. "It's foolproof."

-- Scott Timberg

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