Chop Stick

Designers: visiondivision | City: Indianapolis, IN | Project Type: urban art, reuse
Date Visited: 10.03.12

Location: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, Indiana
Size: two-block corridor
Cost: $2 million
Official Opening Date: June 16, 2012

Chop Stick might be a concession stand, but it’s a far cry from what you might find at your local roller rink. Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the innovative Swedish architecture duo vision division carved the outdoor pavilion/concession stand (with swings) almost entirely out of a single, massive 100-foot-tall tulip tree–also the state tree of Indiana.

Transported with many of its limbs intact from a forest near Anderson Indiana to the 100 Acres Museum Art Park, this massive tulip tree was carefully cut apart and stripped of tree bark so as to retain its original structure and as to reuse other portions of the tree for site furnishings such as swings, benches, and tables. The removed tree bark was even repurposed and kiln-dried to create the shingles that cover the concession stand.

Master Diagram credit: visiondivision

According to an IMA report, the design concept for Chop Stick found inspiration from:

“the premise that every product—whether it is a cell phone, a car, a stone floor, or a wooden building—is a compound of different elements of nature, each of which are harvested in specific ways. Chop Stick will function as a rich educational tool that reveals the processes that are usually hidden as trees are harvested and undergo refinement and transformation into structures.”

All parts of the tree were used, from the leaves to the roots.

Photos of the 100-foot-tall tulip tree removal from visiondivision’s blog:

A first debarking of the tree to fit the truck credit: Donna Sink

The tree outside Anderson, Indiana, ready to roll credit: Donna Sink

The tree was later debarked on the temporary studs at the 100 Acres credit: Donna Sink

While I perused the internet for information on Chop Stick, I came across a lot of negative criticism on the project, most of which called the cutting down of the tree a “waste.” But to call Chop Stick a waste misses the point. From concession stand to skyscraper, architecture of all kinds use a massive amount of natural resources. In a more typical concession stand design, the tulip tree would have been broken down into planks and shingles, shapes that would have further removed the user from the original form of the tree. The success of visiondivision’s Chop Stick is its ability to use the tree’s raw form to increase the user’s awareness of nature’s relationship with the built environment.

Unfortunately the concession stand wasn’t open during my visit, but I still got the chance to play around on the swings. It’ll be interesting to come back in a few years to see how Chop Stick weathers in time.

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