posted 2012-09-21 18:10:37

Tomás Saraceno on the Roof: Cloud City

A city within the city

Shairi Turner

Contributing Writer

Cloud City is an art installation created by Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno. Sitting high on the roof of

the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this installation appears as a cluster of molecules seemingly interconnected and stacked on top of each other. The shapes couple together to create a walkway leading the viewer in, up and out to the top of the structure. Like Saraceno’s previous works, Cloud City blurs the lines between art, architecture and science.

With the name Cloud City, one might expect several connected structures placed in ways that mimic a miniature city. What Sarceno actually produced is an immense metallic structure that only takes up about a third of the roof space it inhabits. The structure doesn’t resemble the massive towers that loom over New York. Rather,

it evokes something out of a chemistry textbook with its various octagonal pieces fused together, jutting towards the skyline on a diagonal plane.

Cloud City mimics the feel of a city with its use of materials. The octagons have mirrored surfaces that reflect the sunlight, clouds and people milling around. Some octagons have clear plastic sides allowing viewers to, almost voyeuristically, watch others enter and experience the work. If you take a moment to sit and watch, you can observe Cloud City becoming a city within itself. In a way, the people viewing the installation from around the world become a part of the structured city. They interact with each other, take pictures, appreciate the work and the amazing view, and so Cloud City becomes a miniature living, breathing, urban melting pot within the larger metropolis of New York.

Stepping inside Cloud City is a different experience than viewing it from the inside. The floors inside the structure are transparent and wobble slightly as they’re walked over. This can be a bit unsettling at first, but there are staff members inside that help keep the structure and the people in it safe. Once the initial fear of heights has been conquered, the beauty and strangeness of Cloud City’s interior starts to take precedence. The clear floors and mirrored walls inside make the viewers inside feel weightless. When looking up, viewers can see the bottoms of others’ shoes, while looking down reveals the tops of their heads tops. It feels surreal to hover in the space in-between. The walls bulge vertiginously outward, toward the horizon. The whole structure becomes like a maze despite the linear path to get to the top. Additionally, there are tiny hexagons made out of black wire, held up high above the structure in a way that makes them appear to be floating.

The top of Cloud City is spectacular. There’s a far reaching view showing the lush green trees of Central Park and tall, shining buildings that are usually only seen from below. It can be very peaceful up there alone. It can also become a moment to make a connection with another person who’s reached the top, even if they’re a complete stranger. Walking back to the bottom of Cloud City only takes a minute or two, but there’s a shakiness that overcomes the person making the journey down. It may have been the experience of having traversed Cloud City or may just be the heights. By and large, exploring the insides of Saraceno’s creation is worth conquering mild acrophobia for a couple of minutes.

Cloud City is a piece of art that mimics the feel of New York in many ways. On the outside is a diverse environment with an honest-to-goodness pulse. The inside has a chaotic feeling of being lost in an urban jungle. Viewers are able to distance themselves from so much chatter and movement outside and take in the views around them. Cloud City will be on view until November 4 and is worth experiencing at least once, inside and out.