Sunday, February 22, 2009

Yurts in Paris: Colorado Yurts Played Host to Voices from Around the Globe

In January I had the opportunity to travel to Paris, France to see 25 Colorado Yurts go up in the Grand Palais. The yurts were for an installation by famed photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand and his group Good Planet. The art piece is called 6 Billion Others.

The Grand Palais is a structure of staggering proportions. It dates from 1900 but today it still has one of the largest glass ceilings in the world. Event organizers (from the design firm Scene) told us that although the Grand Palais is an awesome space, it can be rather difficult to control. That's why they chose to use yurts as the space in which the art would actually happen. The 25 yurts were to comprise 25 mini-cinemas.

We arrived before the show opened and yurts were starting to pop up all around us. Some were fully pitched. The latice and rafters were up on others. The effect was awesome. Normally we think of yurts as natural and traditional spaces, meant to be pitched in organic settings. But here they were surrounded by steel and glass- a monument to industrialisation. Colorado Yurts are traditional but have adapted and because of this they work well in all sorts of environments. Even in the most modern of settings they fit.

Check out this video to see one of the most impressive yurt pitches ever:

We didn't quite know what the organizers meant by saying that the Grand Palais is difficult to control until the show's opening night. Of course, we liked the idea of yurts in Paris and we know that they make beautiful settings in which to show movies, but there was a practical element to using them to too: Paris in January is cold and it's very difficult to heat a space that is 72,000 square meters. Yurts, on the other hand, are very good at retaining heat when necessary. So when we arrived on opening night we, along with the many thousands of other guests, headed straight to the warmth of the yurts.

Each yurt showcased a different film in which people from around the world responded to a different question. One film asked individuals what war has meant in their lives. Another spoke to the meaning of family; still another was about how to make love last. The films were honest, moving, and sometimes funny. As we watched regular people from around the world, we understood something more about the similarities and diversity among the world's population. At the same time we realized that we were sitting with people from around the world and there, inside the yurts, we began to feel a little closer to them.

Check out some of the videos at the 6 Billion Others website.
To learn more about the Colorado Yurt Company's role in 6 Billion Others take a look at this.

-By Sam Kigar
*Photo by
Dominique Erhard