Glass roof forms stunning vortex in art museum’s courtyard

Artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann’s firm Studio Other Spaces has enclosed a courtyard at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum in New York with an intricate glass canopy. Drawing inspiration from the area’s sometimes intense weather patterns, the architectural art installation is defined by a stunning vortex-like funnel.

Common Sky is part of a larger renovation and extension of the AKG Art Museum, which is being handled by OMA. It envelops the courtyard of the 1960s Seymour H. Knox Building, forming a new space in which public events will be held.

Much of Eliasson’s most notable artistic output has been concerned with the manipulation of natural light, such as the Sonnenenergie 22 for example, and this is definitely the case here too. The structure was fabricated from white painted steel by German specialists ArtEngineering and Hahner Technik before being shipped over to the United States and installed. It supports a complex pattern of triangular glass and mirrors at the roof’s edges, which give way to hexagonal forms toward the center, creating pleasant dappled light inside.

Common Sky was first conceived in 2019. It has now been completed and is open to visitors, free of charge
Common Sky was first conceived in 2019. It has now been completed and is open to visitors, free of charge

Marco Cappelletti, courtesy of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, OMA, Cooper Robertson, and Studio Other Spaces

The funnel section is situated to mark the spot where a Hawthorne tree previously stood and functions like a hollow tube, filling with leaves, rain, and snow as the seasons play out (though there’s no mention of how this will be maintained). It also supports the roof, meaning that no interior columns are required.

“Common Sky is a celebration of the sky as common,” explained Studio Other Spaces’ press release. “The glass roof acts as a lens, inviting people to connect with their immediate environment, while bringing the ephemeral qualities of the atmosphere into focus: the changing seasons, the dappled light, and the cloud formations. The alternating mirror and transparent glass panels emphasize physical movement as a means to shape space, making visitors visible within the work, and prompting them to co-create fragmented inward and outward perspectives. The various angles of the mirrors cast complex, kaleidoscopic reflections that frame unexpected views as people move around the courtyard below.”

Common Sky was originally conceived back in 2019 and has now opened to the public, free of charge.

Sources: Studio Other Spaces, AKG Art Museum

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