Setting Sail: A Giant Orb Made Of NYC’s Snapped Umbrellas

Assembled from discarded umbrellas and plastic bottles, the Harvest Dome 2.0 is a dramatic work of “performance architecture.”

This week, SLO Architecture celebrated the crash-free launch of Harvest Dome 2.0, a 24-by-18 foot floating sphere made of umbrella skeletons and plastic bottles. It smoothly sailed down the Bronx River and arrived at the inlet of Inwood Hill Park, where it’s on view as a public art installation for the month of August. “The dome looks so much better this time around,” architect Amanda Schachter tells Co.Design. “We really got it right.”


Husband-and-wife design team Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi lend credibility to that nag of a proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” In March 2012, Co.Design rallied readers to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign that funded the rebuilding of the Harvest Dome after its first version met a sad demise. Atop a pontoon of canoes on its maiden voyage, riptides dragged Harvest Dome 1.0 onto Rikers Island. Prison guards quickly destroyed the Unidentified Floating Object, unaware of the months of work that went into its assembly.

But Schachter and Levi refused to abort their mission. After the botched launch, they raised $7,596 of their $7,500 goal in a month-long Kickstarter campaign to fund Harvest Dome 2.0. “The first one was like the sketch model,” Schachter says. “This time, we painted the ring at the dome’s base. The old one had wood showing, but this is more ethereal and abstract.” And like something Glinda the Good Witch might use for travel, Harvest Dome 2.0 glows, with light-up diodes inserted into each bottle casting a halo on the river at night. Like a clock of the tides, it rises and falls with the water levels.

The designers call it the “physical revelation of the city’s accumulated water-borne debris.” Schachter and Levi harvested 450 seasonally discarded storm-snapped umbrellas from the city’s sidewalks and trashcans to build the dome, one of the most beautiful and abstract structural forms an architect can make. Spindly umbrella bones criss-cross in an array of 16 circles, creating “an actual dome, a perfect circle, not a polyhedron or a series of triangles,” Schachter emphasizes. They then used 128 two-liter soda bottles for its flotation. Despite the ethos behind the project, Schachter says, “this is not ‘eco-art.’ That term is way too reductive. It’s closer to performance architecture, if you had to label it. It’s more about involving people.”

From afar, the dome resembles the bioluminescent head of a massive jellyfish emerging from the deep, or a touched-down alien ship. The designers promise that “the best way to see it is to get in a kayak. On the river, from two to three feet away, that’s when I felt, this is really something.”

[Photos by: Andreas Symietz]

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.