No plain greenhouse, this is a plane greenhouse

Behind the giant paintbrush recently installed in Lenfest Plaza, on Philadelphia’s North Broad Street at Cherry, another sculpture will be installed this week. The new piece will double as a greenhouse.

“Grumman Greenhouse” is made from an actual Grumman S-2E, a Navy combat plane. Artist Jordan Griska bought it–rather the stripped shell of a Grumman–on eBay and had it shipped to his warehouse workspace in West Philadelphia.

He has reconstructed it so that it appears to be crash-landing in Lenfest Plaza. The 17-foot fuselage will be bent at a 45-degree angle. Part of its body will be replaced with curved glass to allow sunlight into rows of tiered plantings.

“Instead of flying it will be growing. Fostering growth,” said Griska. “It’s playing with the idea of changing the role of what the airplane function is.”

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Although greenhouses are usually practical structures designed for a specific function, the “Grumman Greenhouse” is one of two projects in Center City built as aesthetics experiments, the plants used as an integral expressive element.

Near Fifth and Walnut streets in Old City, the American Philosophical Society has built a greenhouse in the shape of the ribcage of an ancient mastodon. Its unusual curves are visual representations of mathematical concepts.

“The geometry I worked with is a series of knots that unravel,” said artist Jenny Sabin. “I was interested in how they could convey this interior-to-exterior condition, and also reference the mastodon, hence the ribs.”

The greenhouse is part of the Philosophical Society Museum’s current exhibit about the 19th-century greenhouse of Empress Josephine in Paris. Its tiered glass roof was–at that time–an innovative and bold architectural development.

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