Cloud House Dedication | Matthew Mazzotta at Farmers Park

May 10, 2016 | Branden Schwab

The Cloud House Public Art Dedication on Saturday, April 23rd at Farmers Park officially unveiled Matthew Mazzotta’s contribution to Springfield’s cache of public art. Check out Tim Hawley’s photographs, here

Mazzotta’s manipulation of spatial contradictions and his juxtaposition of this whimsical, meditative pavilion against the backdrop of a bustling open-air market, prompts visitors to ask a relevant question: What is (and, perhaps, should be) our relationship with, our role within, and our connection to the natural environment as it relates to food production and sustainability?


Situated on a gently sloping hillside along a narrow biking/walking path, the “house” functions as a frame for the landscape, positioned on the outer fringe of the publicly inhabited market space. As a place of respite, the Cloud House succeeds with composure; it’s an interval of calmness that avoids the market’s busy environment while still playing witness to the undeniable energy of crowds weaving around the south side commercial and creative focal point.

17 parts KUKA RouterThe sculptural foam cloud, handiwork of a seven-axis robotic arm wielded by the team at Elemoose (formerly Garage Graphics, follow the link to see the step-by-step fabrication process), announces the pavilion’s playful side, while still remaining deferential, in terms of scale, to the nearby covered plaza and parking area that hosts local farmers, artisans and craftspeople each Saturday.

Aluminum ArmatureFabrication of the cloud required that a skeletal 3D grid be established before giving way to an aluminum armature, upon which the voluptuous styrofoam forms were installed. The forms were routed using data from a 3D scan of the artist’s maquette, or preliminary model, before being coated with AcrylicOne, a two-component material consisting of a mineral powder and a water-based acrylic resin, and bestowing the Cloud with its uncanny resemblance to purple-faced Mr. Swirly’s hair and mustache (from Nickelodeon’s Doug, duh!). Looking at what Elemoose is capable of, one can only imagine what might emerge, from a sculptural public art standpoint, from a collaboration with local artists like, say, illustrator Cole Closser or Scott Sauer.

Formally, the pavilion takes on qualities not unlike those of the festooned mock Roman temples of 18th century English gardens (see “folly”), save some important details:  When prompted, the “cloud” releases a deluge of rainwater, pumped from a subterranean 200-gallon tank, that quenches the thirsty roots of edible plants and herbs integrated within the structure, reminding us of our inseparable connection with nature through the water cycle and agriculture.

With walls, roof and floor assemblies all equally sized by thickness, this representation of a “house” is simultaneously austere and quaint; sophisticated and naive. There’s a playfulness with which Mazzotta approaches ideas of enclosure, of permeability, and the cyclical qualities of of the natural world. For example, take the built-in planters abiding within the sills of the “windows” — actually, glazing-less, rectangular openings on the east and west ends — that are watered when droplets, beading on the top surface of the opening, coalesce, and drip onto the soil and edible plants below (currently mint). Troughs for diverting rainwater are carefully detailed and hidden within the side walls, to eliminate the need for external gutters or downspouts and maintain a pure, geometric building form.

A preliminary sketch by Mazzotta explores framing, the space and supports for the internal gutter, and the pipe for connecting to the Cloud.

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A study model, or maquette, explores the scale of the Cloud relative to the House, materials and overall form. Image: Matthew Mazzotta.

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A larger scale maquette introduces seating to the pavilion and further develops the texture and implied movement of the Cloud. Image: Matthew Mazzotta.

A commentary on the use and sustainability of natural resources; on food supply chains and our connection to the cycles of the earth and atmosphere, the Cloud House is a significant contribution to Springfield’s collection of public art referencing the natural world, cycles, and time.

In the wake of the loss of one of the Queen City’s most passionate proponents for empowering small businesses to celebrate and foster creative culture, Farmers Park developer Matt O’Reilly and patron of the Cloud House identified Coffee Ethic owner Tom Billionis as “an inspiration to me with his ‘People, Product, Planet’ approach.” For those that attended the memorial on the square, you’ll recall stories of Tom’s appreciation for another piece of public art, the “Tumbler”, Aris Demetrios’s faceted “dodecahedron” of weathering steel that was designed to be seasonally rotated and re-positioned on its corner plot within the southeast quadrant of Park Central Square, just beyond the cor-ten (weathering steel) railing and concrete planters of Ethic’s sidewalk patio. Both the Tumbler and Cloud House use cycles and perspective to bring attention to some of those lasting aspects that define a place while lodging it within history and the seasons of growth, renewal, and loss that mark our time together. Similarly, both O’Reilly and Billionis have been able to envision and realize a more collaborative, productive local business landscape, earmarked by people and players that love what they do and continually ask the question, “what if…?”.


 


Like Tom, O’Reilly’s contributions to Springfield’s creative culture can be gleaned from his treatment of the built environment, of commercial and public space, and his harnessing of collective potential to stimulate and promote mindful, and compassionate denizens to actively shape their communities and envision a more progressive future for Springfield and its residents.

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Site Plan: Farmers Park (the Cloud House is just to the South of the parking area around the yellow office building in the Southwest corner. )

Farmers Park is in many ways a counterpoint to Springfield’s downtown & C-street creative districts, and I’ve often noticed that many Springfield residents prefer either one or the other. That being said, there is also a considerable part of the population that moves between both, inhabiting and influencing two vastly different public realms while sharing many of the same hopes, topics, dispositions and ideas espoused by proponents of both parts of the Queen City.

And rightly so. For many Downtowners and North-Siders, the south-side anchor represents another (potentially untapped) market. Thriving small businesses, a more and more active public space, and an ever-expanding network of organizations and people that value creative output all potentially contribute to a robust source of projects and collaborations.

Project contributors included:

Matt O’Reilly
Developer, Green Circle Projects
Patricia Lea Watts
Curator, Project Manager
Jeff Broekhoven
Farmers Park Public Art Advisor
Sujin Lim
Cloud Design
Ben Jennings
Structural Engineer, J&M Engineering
Sue Evans & Kenny Underwood
Cloud Construction, Elemoose
Steve Wilson
Footings/Piers, Wilson Creek Rustic Furniture
Richard Thompson
Steel Framing, CHR Metals
Aaron Sampson
Barn Wood Siding and Tin Roof, SamCo Construction LLC
Omar Galal & John Walker
Rain Reserve Water System
Bryan Simmons
Landscaping, A Cut Above
Jeff Shelton
Gravel, Outdoor Lawn Service
Pam Bachus
Rocking Chairs and Table, Picky Sisters
Tim Hawley
Photography
Dean P. Groover
Video
 
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A computer rendering sites the Cloud House in the landscape, next to planting beds for garden vegetables and other edibles. Image: Matthew Mazzotta

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A roof drainage diagram studies how to maintain material continuity along the tin roof while providing space for rain water to drain into a gutter hidden within the wall assembly. Image: Matthew Mazzotta

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