Gregory Colbert Ashes and Snow Shigeru Ban

January 30, 2006 /

The Nomadic Museum
Santa Monica, California, USA
On view: January 14, 2006 - May 14, 2006

Photo @Gregory Colbert

The containers reflect Colbert's love of things that age. Each one has its own history./Shigeru Ban

The exhibition Ashes and Snow is an ongoing project by Gregory Colbert who, over the course of 14 years, has made more than 30 expeditions to India, Egypt, Burma, Tonga, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Kenya, Antarctica, India, the Azores, Borneo and many other locations to photograph unscripted interactions between man and nature's living masterpieces in their natural state.

In exploring the shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals, I am working towards rediscovering the common ground that once existed when people lived in harmony with animals./Gregory Colbert

Photo @Gregory Colbert

Photo @Gregory Colbert

Assembled next to the historic Santa Monica Pier the Nomadic Museum building is composed largely of recyclable and reusable materials, demonstrating sustainable practices and an innovative architectural approach.

Photo: arcspace

Designed for easy assembly and disassembly, the entire exhibition is packed into eight containers as it travels from place to place. The additional 144 containers are rented at each new location. The steel containers are stacked in a checkerboard pattern 34 feet high to form the walls of the three wings of the museum. The openings between the containers are secured with a diagonal fabric-like membrane.

Photo: arcspace
Photo: arcspace

The structure of the internal Sonotube system consists of triangular trusses of paper tubes resting on a colonnade of 35 feet tall paper tube columns. The aluminium roof trusses and tensile roof fabric are engineered and fabricated to be easily deconstructed, stored and shipped to future locations.

Photo: arcspace

The wide wood-plank walkways are bordered on either side by bays filled with river rock. The unframed photos, printed on cream colored handmade Japanese paper, are hung from thin cables and suspension rods, installed between the paper columns.

Photo: arcspace

A series of divisions of the space is formed from almost-translucent handmade curtains made of one million pressed paper tea bags from Sri Lanka.

Photo: arcspace

A bookstore, with various editions of handmade books displayed on a paper wall and wood system, is located at the exhibition exit.

Photo: arcspace

The Santa Monica show marks the second US venue, the first was in New York City in 2005 where the museum was constructed on an abandoned pier on the Hudson River. The museum is slightly redesigned each time it moves to adjust to the different site conditions

Photo @Shigeru Ban

Photographic artworks and film images from recent expeditions have been added to the exhibition, since its first showing at the Venice Arsenale in 2002, so that the show itself evolves as it travels.

To date, Gregory Colbert has completed more than 30 extensive international expeditions to places as diverse as India, Egypt, Burma, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ethiopia, Namibia, Tonga, the Azores, Antarctica and Borneo to explore the natural interaction between man and animal. A devoted group of private collectors has made it possible for Colbert to photograph elephants, whales, manatees, eagles and other animals in their own environments and on their own terms.

Shigeru Ban, known for his structures made from unexpected materials, like the Paper Church in Japan, is currently working on the the new Centre Pompidou in Metz, France.


Total area:

56,000 square feet
Total height: 56 feet.
Width: 185 feet
Length: 350 feet

Principal architect:
Shigeru Ban

Associate architect:


Project principal:

David Gensler

Project director:

Irwin Miller

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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