THE STORY OF SKYSCRAPER: 5 tons of plastic waste pulled out of the Pacific Ocean, turned into a 4 story tall whale for the 2018 Bruges Triennial - a powerful reminder of the 150,000,000 tons of plastic waste still swimming in our waters
"Skyscraper is a physical example of why we need to change how we use and dispose of plastic in the world today"
-Lesley Chang, Principal, STUDIOKCA
The organizers of the 2018 Bruges Triennial, a free, public event held throughout the city of Bruges from May through September, approached us to create an artwork interpreting the idea of the “liquid city”, a concept that defines the city as an ever changing set of consumer transactions, whose identity is in flux as cities grow more and more connected through globalization.
Our first thought led us to thinking about the biggest liquid city on the planet (the ocean), how it connects us all, and how the waste produced and consumed in our cities, specifically plastic waste, ends up in the ocean. SO, we proposed collecting as much plastic waste out of the oceans that we could in 4 months, and shaping that waste into Skyscraper, an almost 4 story tall whale pushing out of one of Bruges' main canals, and arching over historic Jan Van Eyck Square at the city's center. Skyscraper was selected along with 14 other installations proposed by a select group of international artists and architects to be brought to life for the event!
WHY A GIANT PLASTIC WHALE?
Scientists estimate there are 150 million tons of plastic trash in the ocean right now, with an estimated 8 million tons added every year. That means, pound for pound, there is more plastic waste from our cities swimming in the ocean than there are whales. A whale, breaching from the water, is the first "skyscraper of the sea", and as the largest mammal in the water, it felt like the right form for our piece to take in order to show the scope and scale of the problem. Also, we were able to pull over 5 tons of plastic out of the ocean in a very short period of time, which means we have material for something LARGE.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
The city of Bruges has really gotten behind us to try and help bring this ambitious project to life, but the complexity of working with plastic waste at this scale, is greater than anyone anticipated. We need your help to raise $15,000 to finish fabricating the steel and aluminum components, cover the equipment rental of the heavy machinery needed to transport the heaviest components, tool rental and supplies, transport everything to Bruges in time for the event, and assemble all 107 parts that come together to form Skyscraper on site.
HOW WE'RE BUILDING IT
We've been working with the Hawaii Wildlife Fund and the Surfrider Foundation's Kaua'i Chapter to collect Plastic Waste that has washed up on the shores of Hawaii. Additionally, we've been collecting plastic waste from NYC waterways, and the Bruges Zeebrugge. In just 4 months, from these collection efforts, we've amassed over 5 tons of blue and white ocean plastics!
2. CLEANING AND SORTING
Working long days, we've been carefully cleaning and sorting the plastic by size and color.
3. DESIGN, ENGINEER, and FABRICATE
Working with Thornton Tomasetti, the engineering firm's experimental structures department, we were able to engineer a simple yet stable structural system relying on a single steel mast with 5 spaced steel rings to carry the entire cantilever load of Skyscraper. To create an armature to hold the plastic to the steel, we designed 16 curved aluminum panels that fit together like a puzzle, and then bolt together to the main mast.
We are currently finishing attaching the plastic to a wire mesh, tied to the aluminum panels. Because the surface is built up like a mosaic, and each piece is distinct, we are attaching each piece one at a time, working from the base to the nose.
Finish the steel and ready the components for shipping and re-assembly in Bruges. Then we ship it, install in Bruges!
LIFE FOR SKYSCRAPER AFTER BRUGES
We’re hoping that Skyscraper can have a life after the Bruges Triennial and continue to raise awareness. It's our hope that this piece can be brought to life in a new location so that more people can learn and be inspired by it. Reach out if you have ideas for where the whale should swim to next!
To thank you for your support, we've come up with some custom Skyscraper rewards:
(Top to Bottom, Left to Right):
Sunglasses made of plastic waste from the ocean, complete with customized Skyscraper sunglasses strap and polarized lenses
Tote Bag with an original sketch of the design, made from 100% recycled cotton canvas (65% recycled cotton, 35% recycled plastic bottles)
T-Shirt with an original sketch of the design, made from 100% recycled fabric (50% recycled cotton, 50% recycled plastic bottles)
Water Bottle with an original sketch of the design, made of double wall 18/8 grade stainless steel with vacuum insulation, carries hot and cold drinks
Digital Signed Poster of Skyscraper with our personalized message to you
Set of 3 Custom Postcards of Skyscraper for your use (showing sketches of our design, structural diagrams, and the completed installation), printed on recycled paper
THANK YOU to our SPONSOR!
And SPECIAL THANKS TO
Along with StudioKCA's Skyscraper Team: Moniera, Michael, Hector, Matt, Quinn, Leigh, Dana, Dmitri, Edmond, Tyler, Saki
and (hopefully) you!
WHO WE ARE
STUDIOKCA is a Brooklyn, New York-based team of architects and designers led by Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang. We're interested in creating meaningful spaces and objects that explore humankind's impact on our planet and the universe. Our hope is that visitors to our installations leave with a sense of wonder, inspired to explore the world and have a positive impact on it. Since starting in 2012, we’ve built several public installations, including a cloud for New York City fashioned from over 53,000 collected plastic water bottles, reflecting the amount of water bottles thrown out in 1 hour in the city; a comet for the World Science festival celebrating the successful completion of the Rosetta mission to send a satellite to rendezvous with a comet 40,000,000 miles away; and a giant nautilus shell for NASA, allowing visitors to “listen to the sounds of space”. We’ve been honored to receive several awards for our work, including 4 American Institute of Architects Awards (including the AIA California Council Design Honor Award, AIA New York Design Merit Award, AIA Brooklyn + Queens Design Merit Award, and the AIA National Small Project Award).
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Risks and challenges
Building with Plastic Waste:
Almost all of the plastic pulled out of the ocean is different, with different levels breakdown based on how long it was in the ocean (plastic records the time it was in the ocean). It will be a challenge to build 4,000sf of surface area using all of these different parts- like constructing a massive 3-D mosaic. Fortunately, this will be the third piece for us where we have had to work with plastic components that were post-consumer, but pre-recycled, so we are confident we can create a system and organization for securing the parts together and to the structure.
Structure is going to be heavy and we have to make sure our engineer has calculated all the loads so that the piece is strong and safe. Over-sizing structural members to accommodate the various weather patterns will be important, but this means that the steel is going to be heavy and unwieldy. Fortunately, we have experience building large scale buildings where the steel is as big and larger. We will also have the privilege to work with a GREAT team in Bruges during the install, once it arrives.
Nothing is ever perfect, and even though we can tie and secure everything inside of containers, we don't know if the sea will damage the whale while it swims to Bruges. The good news is, since we built it once, we will know how to repair anything that does get damaged along the route. Jason and Team will (hopefully) be there the day the whale arrives.
- (22 days)