He’s ‘Cloud Igloo’ transforms vibe in Stockholm building entry space

Weiling He

A nondescript entry space at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Sweden was temporarily transformed into an intriguing gathering place by “Cloud Igloo,” an architectural installation created by Weiling He, associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M, and a group who joined her for a three-day design-build workshop at the institute.

The piece, installed in a large, high-ceilinged entrance of the school's architecture building, is a representation of cloud formations and dipping tornadoes made from approximately 2,000 plastic bottles strung together with nylon ropes.

“Cloud Igloo creates a comfort zone in a sterile space for people to sit, read and visit with each other by softening and creating a smaller scale for the space by lowering some of its ceilings,” said He.

He and a team of artists, architects and students at the institute created “Cloud Igloo” and other installations in the building’s entrance as part the three-day “Make Your own Comfort Zones” workshop hosted February 2014 by the art institute.

Creating and building the piece had a unique set of challenges because it had to be designed and built in just three days, said He. Before arriving in Stockholm, He hadn’t seen the water bottles, didn’t know their precise dimensions nor did she have a good sense of the space where the piece was going to be installed.

Because the bottles will be used by institute’s students this summer in a raft-making project, He couldn’t alter the bottles by drilling holes or otherwise cutting them.

One of the workshop participants, an experienced sailor, showed the group how to use sailing knots to bind the clusters of bottles that together form the installation.

He's original design was altered on the fly to accomodate clusters that didn't jibe with her initial concept and to assure that all of the bottles secured for the project were deployed.

“I really like the idea of making those kinds of decisions right on the spot,” she said.

The group also wanted to use the bottles’ translucent finish to create lighting from within, but decided instead to project graphical patterns of light onto the piece, said He.

She was invited to participate in the workshop by Peter Lang, professor of architectural theory and architectural history at the institute, because he had seen “Plastic Poetry,” an installation made of more than 14,000 plastic bags He created for an October 2013 exhibition at the University of Texas. Lang, a professor of architecture at Texas A&M, is on a one year leave to teach at the institute.

He’s recent installations exploring the relationship between people and plastic.

“Once it’s created, plastic is almost eternal, because it takes millions of years to degrade,” she said.

posted March 7, 2014