Dream Project 2: "Be Level with the Clouds at the Oculus"
To say the Oculus is impactful is an understatement. It’s simply breathtaking, at once both reverential and inviting.
As a site that commands in each visitor a mindfulness of place, the Oculus is an awe-inspiring setting for artistic statements that tastefully elevate the atmosphere. An aesthetically pleasing fusion of architecture and nature, it is no wonder the Oculus inspired our founder at Richard Clarkson Studio with a dream project.
“I was on my way home from installing Clouds for an event very late one night,” Clarkson said. “Right around the date the Oculus first opened. While walking to the train I found myself right inside this fascinating new structure. Aside from the odd security guard, I was one of the only people in the space.”
Walking through the Oculus, Clarkson said, he wondered how incredible it would be to fill an installation of his own. Imagine it: our signature Clouds scattered throughout the towering station, forming an overhead collection of cumulus clouds that will spark a shared sense of wonder – even among those who shy against the window seat on a trip overseas.
The sense of height inside the Oculus will also no doubt be magnified by the presence of our Clouds, warping perceptions of scale in an eye-popping, unforgettable sight. We anticipate these Clouds will instantly be at one with the ethereal grandeur of the environment, along with offering a pleasant contrast against the fixed lines of sky and stark white steel.
Since its completion in 2016, the Oculus continues to build upon its status as both a daring artistic feat and a modern architectural gem. As a transportation hub designed to commemorate 9/11 – situated on Ground Zero, nestled alongside the 9/11 Memorial pools – the Oculus is packed with symbolic depth and emotional power. A place of remembrance, the Oculus brings life to a once-dormant space by housing a myriad of purposes with a train station, shopping center, and plaza. It’s also served as the site of incredible art displays, such as last year’s installation of architect Maurice Goldberg and designer Matthew Aberline’s inflatable “Live 4 Love” structure in the middle of the station floor.
It’s clear the Oculus offers countless ways to showcase human creativity and ingenuity, instead of simply being a transportation hub. Designed by the iconic Santiago Calatrava, the mind-boggling structure is known for its avian entryway, brilliant white shape, and hypnotically futuristic interior. When Snarkitecture and Mother New York commemorated World Water Day with a balloon installation in 2017 “The Water Clouds by Stella Artois”, the Oculus cemented itself as an inspiring venue for artistic expression.
The structure’s attachment to nature, specifically its relationship to the sky, is perhaps what intrigues us most. Outside, the Oculus’ dramatically curved wings reach outward with the illusion of a dove’s wingspan, outstretched with the promise of flight toward the sky above. The wings have a stubborn, graceful asymmetry that cleverly belies the Oculus’ parallel, towering interior. The warped perception of size and scale creates a delightfully ingenious illusion, tapping into our own mission of bringing elemental, cosmic forces within reach.
The span of the Oculus’ station in particular is where we see our Clouds gathering, making an already memorable visit even more entrancing for the 250,000 commuters passing through the hub each day. It is impossible not to admire the Oculus for its skylight, stretching across the ceiling of the station. One could liken the experience to being inside the eye of a Titan, waking from slumber into a new world.
Onlookers can’t help but gaze upon the swath of Manhattan sky and the outline of the World Trade Center. We imagine our Clouds would further heighten the perceived distance between ground and sky, connecting visitors to one another and the structure encompassing them.
These Clouds offer a heady blend of the celestial and whimsical, made from inflatable internal structures and our own specialized cloud-fluff material. Calatrava’s own use of light and sun as elemental influences in his work mirrors our Brooklyn studio’s intrinsic attachment to nature, from the outer reaches of the cosmos to the overhead passing of clouds. We believe the pairing of these serene elements – Calatrava’s light and sun, our Clouds – would make for a wondrous artistic combination, for travelers and passersby of any age.
The Clouds will range in size from one to twelve feet, each illuminated by sunbeams pouring in through the skylight above. (Unless of course it’s an overcast day, in which case their presence will possess no less an undeniable charm.) The sight of our Clouds, dappled and diffused with light, will enchant commuters headed toward any weather.
This installation will provide visitors the opportunity to stand at the balcony or second floor of the Oculus and feel level with the clouds, like birds suspended in flight – in a place that so effectively pays tribute to the far-reaching heights of the human spirit.
Clouds travel on a cyclical path – sometimes predictable, sometimes in shapes impossible to foresee – not much different from our own journeys around the world. Our Clouds inhabit that same sense of natural wonder and cosmic purpose, minus the chance of rain. How fitting it would be to place them along the Oculus’ station for travelers to look upon, to share in a spectacle that is entirely unexpected but altogether welcome.
For a look at past projects with our Clouds, which have been installed at the Oakland Airport, DC’s Mythology Bar and Restaurant, and other now-celestial spaces, click here. We’re a Brooklyn-based art and design laboratory, working on an ever-evolving spectrum of pieces in tune with nature. It would be a thrill and an honor to bring a touch of the cumulus into the Oculus.