Rebuilding the Summer Palace

After a rough winter, things are starting to pop out of the ground at The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is an amazing city and it hosts this fabulous arboretum, full of energetic, hard-working, welcoming characters whose vast knowledge of plants and driven work ethic keep the place looking breathtakingly beautiful.

This past winter PA had record-breaking snow both in feet and in weight. Patrick Dougherty's sculptures are designed to withstand the local weather, be it wind in San-Fran, a torrential rain up the coast, or northern snow. This year's snow in PA was so far above what could be expected in the area that the one-year-old Summer Palace took a premature slumber.

People remarked that it looked "deflated," "sat on," and "melted," but no longer. For the past three weeks I teamed up with the Morris Arboretum and pumped some life into the Summer Palace. We literally pumped it up using an automotive floor jack and then reinforced the weakened areas. For the most part sticks have a memory of the shape in which they dried, and most of them popped back into place. However, although strong, dry sticks are also brittle and some of the main structural limbs had to be replaced.

Knowing that we couldn't bring it all the way back up to its original splendor, we lifted the sculpture as high as it would spring back without causing further damage. It is now aesthetically approachable and safe to explore. Visitors are able to enjoy walking in an around the Summer Palace once again.

Many thanks to the Morris Arboretum and extra thanks to Patrick Dougherty for his initial creation and his personal recommendation for me to work on the reconstruction, Patrice Sutton for spearheading the rebuild, Imogen Anderson for her tireless work, Drew Hawkes and Dan Church for continually being on the scene with a needed extra hand, materials, and supplies.

The top photo is the rebuilt state, the next was taken half-way through the rebuild, the next is the fallen state, then the destructive snow, and the last photo is its first built state.

Morris Arboretum Blog
Chestnut Hill Local