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The 10,000 Swarovski Crystal Cloud

A sparkling new art installation involving 10,000 Swarovski ELEMENT crystals and chicken wire was just set up in Georgetown, Washington DC. Cloud Terrace, by landscape artists Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot in collaboration with J.P. Paull of Bodega Architecture, made its debut at Dumbarton Oaks, a Harvard University institute that supports garden design and landscape architecture, among other studies. On its Arbor Terrace, the stunning installation hangs over an oval pool, creating a gorgeous and colorful reflection. How I'd love to see this in person!

Photographer Stephen Jerrom sent us images of the finished installation as well as some great “making of” shots featuring Andy, Xavier and Stephen.

Update: We were lucky enough to get in touch with Andy Cao to ask him some questions about this installation. Read that Q&A, below.

How did the idea come up to create a cloud made of Swarovski crystals?
The commission developed from my visit to Dumbarton Oaks institute as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2010-11. It was organized by John Beardsley, Director of Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, and Gail Griffin, Director of Gardens.

The installation is both a cloud and chandelier. We've worked with glass medium, including crystals, on and off over the past 12 years. This time we wanted to use really fine crystals to create a jewel like environment. We approached Swarovski Elements and they generously provided ten thousand crystals to enliven our installation on the Arbor Terrace at Dumbarton Oaks.

The parterre terrace adjacent to the Wisteria Arbor is a very special place within the greater gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, but it is without shade and quite hot in the summer. The crystal cloud we have created provides half shade, and the reflecting pond we added helps cool the space. This is our first time working with Swarovski Elements Crystals, and true to reputation, the crystals' clarity and beautiful colors are unparalleled; truly in a class of their own. Our partner and photographer Stephen Jerrome has been able to capture some of that sparkling color in pictures, but it really has to be seen in person to be fully experienced.

How did the installation work off the pool?
The existing rococo parterre terrace was paved with thick slabs of stone. The reflecting pond and the sculpted gravel floor were introduced as part of our design to create a total environment. With the dark reflective pond catching the crystals' light, it's as if one can see night stars during the day! With the presence of wind and sunlight, the crystals cast colorful prisms which dance on the water surface, animating the entire space.

How long did it take to create?
It took us five weeks to create the installation in collaboration with J.P. Paull of Bodega Architecture, and the generous support from Dumbarton Oaks garden department and numerous volunteers.

What do you hope for others get out of the installation?
Of course, we hope that visitors to “Cloud Terrace” will enjoy the experience of viewing the cloud; but also recognize how beautiful a utilitarian material like chicken wire can be when it is sculpted and transformed into ephemeral clouds. Our wish is to highlight the beauty of everyday materials and reintroduce the luxury of handmade. The work is a labor of love and can be best described as Incidental Placemaking. Our process is mindfully constructed and labor intensive, but the result is seemingly incidental. In short, we want to embrace beauty and hope to bring magical realism back to the outdoor environment.

Swarovski website and Harvard website
Photo credit: Stephen Jerrome

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