Testing of New North Shore “Cloud Making” Sculpture Puts on Dramatic Show

May 18, 2012

On a clear, sunny, and warm Friday morning, Buhl Community Park, outside of the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, was cloudy, misty, and cool. That's thanks to a new sculpture currently under construction, which uses mist to create an ever-evolving cloud-like sphere.

"There's a series of stainless steel poles and there's water running up through the middle of them and there's these special high-pressure nozzles, it's a thousand psi, or actually I think it's 2,000. So that super high-pressure water coming up these nozzles, it turns it into what clouds are made of, it turns it into real fog," said San Francisco artist Ned Kahn, who designed the so-called "Cloud Arbor."

Kahn worked with the Children's Museum on the outer "skin" of the building and said he wanted the sculpture in the park across the street to match or compliment the facility.

"It's just intended to be something beautiful and fun and engaging and kind of a mystery, you know, 'Why is this thing here?' It creates its own little microclimate. The fog on a hot day drops the temperature noticeably," said Kahn.

The Cloud Arbor was tested for the first time Friday, and did just that. As the cloud formed and spread the area cooled down and a foggy mist enveloped everything around it. Since it's still under construction, it was just a peek at what the final piece will actually do.

"I think the effect and drama I see happening here, this might become something that people want to come to the city of Pittsburgh to see," said Chris Siefert, deputy director of the Children's Museum.

He likened it to Chicago's Millenium Park, which draws thousands of people for its art installations alone. The Cloud Arbor is funded by the Charity Randall Foundation, a local family foundation dedicated to the arts, education, and the environment. The cost is being kept private, but the hope is that the public interest will pay a lot back to the community.

"I think what this is going to do for our region is really exciting, because this area is currently being revitalized, and I think this is going to be one of the leading projects that going to energize others to get involved and essentially revitalize this area," said Randall Foundation Chair Robin Randall.

The Cloud Arbor will be finished in early to mid-June, with a public celebration scheduled June 23.