A lifelike Banyan tree recalls the tropical rainforest at the National Museum of Natural History.
Orchids of Latin America (Natural History, January 26-April 21, 2013) explored the crossroads of botany, horticulture, and culture. Exhibit planners wanted to transport visitors to the tropical rainforest, so they requested a dramatic Banyan tree sculpture at the exhibit entrance to evoke the orchids' lush habitat. Orchids has since closed, but the tree remains at NMNH.
Designing, making, and installing a life-sized tropical tree required careful planning by OEC’s Model Shop. The tree was made in sections to allow for transport and delivery through the hallways at NMNH.
Modelmakers began by building a welded armature trunk with removable branches. They then applied fire-rated urethane foam and carved it into shape. Next, trunk and branches were coated with a water-based, pliable material that would hold a texture and harden. Modelmakers sculpted strangler fig vines on top of the trunk, and stained both with color. The entire structure was transported to NMNH, where modelmakers attached branches, adjusted leaves, and painted the surface to make the Banyan tree appear a seamless whole.