The project first came about when Stevenson observed that while New York City’s streets and buildings were densely populated, bustling locations, its rooftops still offered vast quantities of untouched, often serene open space. A large-scale installation artist whosework deals with issues of hospitality and the value of face-to-face relationships, he set to work on designing a full-service rooftop camping experience.
Composed of five (soon to be seven) lean-to tents, a small cooking rig, campfire-esque picnic area, and open-air canteen library, the site offers a unique mix of modern comforts (wi-fi till dusk!) and old-fashioned camping features (sleeping beneath the stars!). Designed on the lo-tech lap joint and notch system, the modular wooden tent frames can be assembled in about 20 minutes by two people and a rubber mallet. The entire flat-packable site can be up and running in just under two hours.
With portability and sustainability in mind, the rain-resistant canvas covers and recycled industrial felt bedding were sourced and fabricated in the United States. The communal eating table and stools were made from pine reclaimed from abandoned local factories. Guests can reserve multiple nights on the Bivouac website. They are encouraged to live their normal daily lives, coming and going as they please. Their domestic hours, however, are spent on the rooftop.
It may not be the Grand Canyon, but it beats playing Angry Birds on your smartphone, and unlike other art installations that often disappear into either a collector’s warehouse or the trash heap, Stevenson has designed the campsite with durability and longevity in mind. The Bivouac is meant to be re-used and re-discovered by the public as often as possible. It has plans to pitch up on rooftops in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Berlin, and Stevenson is scouting locations for a souped up version of the New York site for Spring 2012 and welcomes all location suggestions. With so many industrial spaces across the globe screaming to be re-purposed, the project definitely proves that you don’t always have to “escape” to nature. Sometimes all you have to do is look up.
Photos © Mark Römisch via Bivouac New York