I was browsing over the internet the other day and I came across an art installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude called "Umbrellas"
Executed in 1991, Umbrellas consisted of 3100 massive umbrellas being open and displayed on both sides of the Pacific, in Japan and California.
What struck me about the work was its elegant simplicity. The free standing Umbrellas were designed to:
“ ….reflect the availability of the land in each valley, creating an invitational inner space, as houses without walls, or temporary settlements and related to the ephemeral character of the work of art.”
To give an idea of scale, each umbrella was 26 ft in diameter and 19 feet high. To understand what that means, the average two car garage is 19 feet by 18 feet and the standard height of a room is 8 feet tall. In other words each umbrella covered an area of 530 square feet and encompassed a volume of 10 082 cubic feet.
For some reason north American culture has adopted a mentality that bigger is better, especially in the area of housing. If it is not obvious yet, my family and I live in a way that is somewhat counter cultural….our family of 9 lives in a 1375sqft town house. There are families of 3 in that live in houses that are 3500sqft.
Now I am not saying that we intend to stay in a house this size, in fact, we are in the process of house hunting in amongst all the other things we are doing! However, consider the following:
The common Yurt Mongolian families have lived in for centuries, is 16 ft in diameter. Which is a footprint of about 296sqft….that is smaller than a two car garage! So essentially these umbrellas represent a Mongolian mansion!
Especially when you take into account that a the equivalent two story house would stand about 16 ft (that is of course a bare minimum slab on grade two story house with no basement and a pretty flat roof….not too common here but common enough in other places in the world where they don’t get much snow or rain)
I think what impressed me most about the artists themselves is that they are completely self funded! Which means, they are free to make their own subtle statements with out having to worry about reflecting the bias of a particular sponsor….which is often a hidden presence in commissioned art. And in that way they can truly be individual.
Anyway here is a link to their work!