The Gates artwork in New York's Central Park has been getting widespread media coverage, focused on the color saffron in a city where February means gray.
Despite reports of ``steel gates,'' several companies in the plastics industry know better the details of the materials used for a project 26 years in the making. The largest artwork in the history of the Big Apple is primarily PVC.
To be exact, the temporary display of 7,500 gates by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude used more than 750,000 pounds of PVC, 75,000 pounds of nylon fabric and 10,000 pounds each of high-impact polystyrene and polypropylene.
The artists wanted materials that could be recycled.
The gates themselves are constructed of 16-foot PVC profiles - 22,500 of them, to be exact - that were extruded by North American Profiles Group at its facility in Holmes, N.Y., said J.P. Braaten, NAPG's new business development manager.
``Of the project's request, the materials had to come out of New York City; if not New York City, then New York state,'' Braaten said by telephone Feb. 16. ``We would do everything we could in aiding them to get the materials recycled at the end of the day.''
Injection molder LMT-Mercer Group Inc. of Lawrenceville, N.J., started working on the project about a year ago, said Jim Fattori, vice president of operations. The firm molded 15,000 base covers and 15,000 safety cones in fluorescent orange. Each part was molded on a 250-ton press.
Color matching was an important part of the project.
``We were told to match it, Fattori said. ``We molded the base covers in high-impact polystyrene, so we had some difficulty trying to match the saffron color, but we got through that.''
In total, LMT processed 10,000 pounds of polypropylene copolymer from American Polymers Inc. of Oxford, Mass., and 400 pounds of fluorescent colorant from Breen Color Concentrates Inc. in Lambertville, N.J.
For Nicos Polymers & Grinding Inc. of Nazareth, Pa., the real work begins now that The Gates has ended its 16-day exhibit, which ran through Feb. 27. The material will be collected, sorted and loaded onto trailers at a central location in the park, officials said.
The entire project will be disassembled and recycled.
``We'll be receiving the materials here on second shift,'' said Bob Perrone, The Gates project coordinator for Nicos. ``The materials will be processed as they arrive.''
The Web site of the artists - a couple known sans surname as Christo and Jeanne-Claude - said all materials from their artworks are recycled industrially.
``It really had to be a classy solution to a world-class event,'' said Celeste Johnson, consultant to the president of Hugo Neu Corp., a New York-based recycling firm. Johnson arranged to recycle the project.
About the security of the project, she said, ``We don't want to see Son of The Gates anywhere.''
``The project itself, it's here and then gone, which helps with the value of [Christo's] drawings,'' Perrone said.
PVC wasn't always the choice, but chief engineer Vince Davenport said he was out on a walk one day in his home state of Washington when he noticed neighbors building a horse corral out of PVC poles.
``We always recycle everything,'' Davenport, who also is construction director for the project, said in a Feb. 14 telephone interview. ``It's an important part of the art. That's one of the reasons we chose these materials.''
Davenport and his wife, Jonita, have worked with Christo and Jeanne-Claude since 1989, he as chief engineer and she as project director.
They set up a temporary, 25,000-square-foot facility in Queens to fabricate the gates, relying on a crew of 600 to put the whole puzzle together in five days in Central Park.
``When the idea struck me about vinyl, I knew I had it made,'' he said. ``All the research was done on my own. I guarantee you there will be a lot more artists and industrial people looking at plastic after this project.''
Although he used aluminum to build a prototype, he said he wasn't sold on the material.
``It weighs twice as much. It costs twice as much. You have to paint it,'' he said of aluminum.
Perrone said Nicos already has located markets for the recycled material.
``It would have destroyed the whole project if [Christo] couldn't recycle this. ... It was thrilling to be involved in this project. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, just as the art was.''