mike + doug starn: big bambu at the venice biennale
mike + doug starn: big bambu at the venice biennale mike + doug starn: big bambu at the venice biennale
jun 06, 2011

mike + doug starn: big bambu at the venice biennale

mike + doug starn: big bambu at the venice biennale image © designboom




currently on display at the 54th venice biennale is ‘big bambú’, an evolutionary and complex structure by american artists and brothers mike and doug starn. previously installed on the roof of the metropolitan museum of art in new york – where it ranked forth in the world for total attendance of a contemporary exhibition in 2010 –  the piece is being presented as an official collateral exhibition, part of a special project by glasstress.

big bambu venice biennale designboom view of top part of the structure image © designboom




sculptural and experiential, the hollow bamboo structure features a spiraling and undulating trail which leads visitors to an expansive lounge fifty feet above the grand canal. meandering through the courtyard of casa artom next to the peggy guggenheim collection, the organic and woven maze remains in a state of constant flux, complete but never at rest. the artists, along with a crew of eleven rock climbers, will continue to lash together more than 3,000 bamboo poles, extending the pathway upwards and adding an additional fifteen to twenty feet of height until the dismantling – expected to last two weeks – begins on june 18th.

big bambu venice biennale designboom details image © designboom




mike starn states: ‘it is a sculpture, but not a static sculpture. it’s something that exists through the presence of the people inside it. it’s an organism that we, and the crew of rock climbers, are just a part of–helping to move it along. we are constructing an ongoing tower, growth and change remain invariable, and they are a constant.’

exterior image © designboom




doug starn, adds: ‘we have a philosophy of chaotic interdependence; of how every complex thing grows and evolves (animal, social structures, etc…), and ‘big bambú’ actually physically presents it, it is philosophical engineering. everything depends upon one another and the loads are distributed throughout, the interdependence is natural and fluid. there is not too much weight applied to any one thing.’

details image © designboom




in addition to the 2,000 fresh cut bamboo stalks harvested from a farm in france, the current installation utilizes several fragments salvaged from last years exhibition at the met. poles from both locations will be used again at stem cells in future projects or as stand alone sculptures, while others will be stored in europe or the united states.

the bamboo stalks directly intersect with the ground image © designboom


stairs at entrance image © designboom


detail of stairs image © designboom


spiraling trail image © designboom


the trail overlooking casa artom and the peggy guggenheim collection museum image © designboom


view on canal grande image ©  designboom


detail of bending pathway image © designboom


a complex network of intersecting poles  image © designboom


detail of ‘wall’ image © designboom


view of san marco image © designboom


detail of connections image © designboom


rooftop lounge image © designboom


rooftop lounge image © designboom


new stalks and fragments salvaged from last years installation image © designboom


floor of rooftop lounge image © designboom


detail of pathway image © designboom


looking up at the spiraling trail image © designboom


view from canal grande image © designboom



glasstress is a collateral event of the 54th international venice biennale, which is now its its second year after it debut in 2009. conceived by adriano berengo, the contemporary art exhibition collaborates with prominent artists and designers from around the world to showcase their talent and creative expressions.

  • philosophical engineering…?????

    gaston says:
  • if Venice was not the background of those pics, this work would be nothing

    Ivan says:
  • wonderful, what a wild thinking it is!

    Moniruzzaman Mondal says:
  • Ivan, you have to admit that from a structural and engineering standpoint this is pretty amazing.

    CathS says:
  • @CathS: possibly… but I don’t get the point of it. It’s not aesthetically pleasing either, at least to me. It looks more like the projection of a headache.
    Everybody (or, almost everybody) can mess up, complicate things. Not a difficult task indeed. But, say, Apple is a winner because it simplifies things, rather than complicating them, which of course does not mean banalizing them.

    Ivan says:
  • Great experimental work ! Should be shown to bamboo basic design students about the many creative uses of bamboo and then ……. many years of research to make this lesson valuable . What will they do with bamboo poles and cords after the Biennale ? I suggest artists should know more about product life or ….. not ?

    acertext says:
  • Ivan, you miss the point entirely. This is not an engineering project, it is an Art project! It is DESIGNED to be a confusing, rickety, organic, whimsical, human endeavor created by hands,not machines. If your highest aesthetic is the Apple computer then I shudder for the fate of all of us laughing, hairy, art-making monkeys.

    Sav Yosef says:
  • Cool.Probably much cooler in the flesh tho.

    Mike H says:
  • Reminds me of a giant birds nest – which is a good thing 🙂
    This would be great in a more natural setting too. Imagine finding this in a woodland and being able to climb to the top to look out over the tree tops or at an ocean view.
    I do agree that industrial design can transcend its purpose when simplified yet this is not an exercise in design; it’s art and therein lies the difference.

    Lombax says:

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