In Farmers Park—Springfield, Missouri’s largest farmer’s market—a permanent, fluffy-looking white cloud made of resin appears to float above Cloud House, an open-sided one-room structure created by artist Matthew Mazzotta. Even on sunny, dry days, “rain” from the cloud falls on the tin roof of the Cloud House—unless it hasn’t rained for a while.

The wooden room is a meditative space, and part of a self-contained ecosystem. When real rain falls on its tin roof, it’s collected in gutters and directed into a subterranean storage tank. Sit in one of the two rocking chairs in the room and you trigger a pump that brings water from the tank up into the resin cloud—which re-releases it onto the structure, creating gentle rainfall even on a cloudless day. The water funnels through the tops of the windows, gently watering edible plants on the windowsills.

If the levels of real precipitation are low, the tank goes empty and the sculptural cloud does too.

Cloud House’s simple re-creation of the water cycle illustrates our dependence on such systems, and its interior space is designed to encourage reflection on our connection with food and weather and our ability to address climate stability.

“For years, grocery stores have provided food that relies on large agro-conglomerates with unsustainable farming practices, international food distributors, and chemical companies,” says Mazzotta. “Many people have demanded that we have another relationship with our food that focuses on personal health, the health of the planet, and supporting local community. Farmers’ markets, like the one at Farmers Park, give the option to know by whom and how our food is made. However, the changing climate has brought a new threat of increased instability to our food systems by creating unpredictable weather patterns, which we are seeing as more drought in some locations and more floods in other locations. This makes it harder and harder to grow food. It is becoming increasingly important that we have a clear understanding of how closely we are tied to ecological systems like the water cycle. Cloud House offers a moment to sit in a rocking chair and listen to the rain on the tin roof to reflect upon the fragile dance we are in with nature and our own survival.”

Jen Dolen is a photographer and is on the editorial team for Public Art Review.

From Public Art Review #57, where this article originally appeared in Projects We Love as “Cloud House.”
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