Friday, April 2, 2010

An inside look on repairing The Summer Palace

Morris Arboretum's The Summer Palace is beautiful in its exclusive use of natural material and considerations were made to keep the exhibit intact as long as possible.  The Summer Palace has openings built into the top of the sculpture that not only act as natural windows for light but also serve to minimize snow load that can accumulate.  During the major snow event this winter (with more than 40 inches of snow in a week), snow accumulated and the sculpture began to sag as you can see in previous pictures.  Fortunately, the natural materials that make up the exhibit have 'memory' and should be able to be reworked to their original configuration with a little help.

Currently, Andy Lynch is working with Morris Arboretum staff and interns to repair The Summer Palace for visitors to enjoy in months to come.  Andy is from New York City and has worked with Patrick Dougherty on a number of similar sculptures in the past.  You can find out more about him and his projects at his website: and blog:

Andy (below) explains how he is using scaffolding, braces and jacks to bring the branches of the sculpture back to the original shape and height of the sculpture before the snow damage.  Metal bracing and scaffolding are only temporary as natural materials are reworked into the exhibit.

Additional branches and posts will be used to reinforce the sculpture and stabilize the original materials at approximately the previous height and configuration.  Andy explained that the easiest and best way to repair The Summer Palace is to reshape it as close to the original sculpture as possible.  You can see in the picture below the bracing and horizontal supports that will be jacked up to increase the height.
From the rear, you can see how The Summer Palace has drooped (see the left hand upper portion) as the roof structure collapsed.  Scaffolding around the back of the sculpture allow Andy and staff to gain access to the material on the upper portion of the sculpture and secure new posts and bracing made of natural materials.

More updates and pictures coming soon so keep checking back in.  Also, if there is a specific picture or question that you have, leave a comment and we can go and try to get some more information.


  1. The "Summer Palace" is indeed uniquely designed. Have you thought about a bonsai display at the arboretum?

  2. they are definitely miss some ficus ginseng there