Yesterday's gray sky and drizzle couldn't keep anxious press away from the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Argentine artist and architect Tomas Saraceno was officially debuting his new project "Cloud City". A sculptural constellation of 16 geodesic pods, Cloud City "floats" above the museum's roof anchored by steel cables that keep the structure from flying off into orbit. The futuristic construction features over 100 planes, either shiny, mirrored, transparent, or open to the air. Navigating the structure is disorienting to say the least (think mirrored fun house), but thrilling, unexpected vantage points turn the spinning and sensation of weightlessness into a worthwhile journey. Beyond its incredible form, Cloud City beautifully reflects surrounding Manhattan, highlighting everything from the lush greenery of Central Park to the entire skyline of New York in one mirrored object. Cloud City opens to the public today, but get your first look through us here!
Measuring 54 feet long by 29 feet wide by 28 feet high, “Cloud City” weighs approximately 20 tons — so flying away may not really be an option — and is anchored by a complex network of steel cables that can be admired when viewing the piece up close. The project is the 15th consecutive single-artist installation for the Met Museum’s Cantor Roof Garden, and follows Doug and Mike Starn’s highly successful “Big Bambu”, which took over the roof in 2010.
Saraceno, who lives and works in Frankfurt, has been working on Cloud City for two years, and made regular visits to New York over the design process. The installation was originally scheduled to be on view last summer, but getting the necessary building permits took longer than the museum expected, and fabrication delays didn’t help the case. Assembling Cloud City was no easy task either. The architect had to bring cranes in to begin moving the modules up to the 5th roof mid-April, and less than temperate weather stretched the process out further. The installation of Cloud City took about one month to complete.
Inspired by multiple phenomena and structures (including clouds, bubbles, bacteria, foam, universes, and social and neural communication networks), the modular pod-constriction incorporates transparent and reflective materials that work to emphasize the surrounding Central Park, Manhattan’s skyline, and the expanse of space above and beyond. For the piece, Saraceno wanted to build a new model for living, interaction, and social exchange; more secifically, one that challenges the boundaries of earthly living and explores the possibility of airborne habitation.
According to the artist: “Upside down, Central Park is a flying garden embedded in a cumulus cloud, mirrored buildings and skies appear under your feet, gravity seems to reorient itself, and people are multiplied in patchworks of cloudscape, forming unexpected interconnected networks…Cloud City is an invitation to perceive simultaneously a multiplicity of realities, making overlapping and multireflective connections between things, affecting and challenging our perceptions. Cloud City is a vehicle for our imagination, ready to transport us beyond social, political, and geographical states of mind.”
While we caught the installation in a little less sunshine than we would have hoped for, we do recommend bringing your sunglasses if you intend on making a visit between now and September — the reflected light will be far from forgiving on the eyes. Rubber-soled shoes are also a MUST — visitors without them will not be allowed to climb the installation.
A total of 15 people, including two Met monitors, can explore the sculpture at one time, and a viewing schedule will be put in place. The exhibit closes this fall, so don’t miss out!
Photos: Diane Pham for Inhabitat