Roof Like a Liquid Flung Over the Plaza


Title: Roof Like a Liquid Flung Over the Plaza
Photo Credit:
Lead Artist(s):
Vito Acconci

Peter Dorsey

Stephen Roe

Dario Nunez

Gia Wolff

Laura Charlton


Acconci Studio designed the permanent public art piece in the plaza at the corner of Front and Poplar. The project is a mirrored, stainless steel canopy that provides shelter, while simultaneously bringing the sky into the plaza and the plaza into the sky. Funnels rise up out of the canopy and sweep down to the ground providing gathering spaces with seating and lighting. The downward funnels also function as small performance spaces that play off the larger function of the site as a performance hall. The artwork is approximately 20 feet high, 49 feet deep, and 84 feet long. A description of the project by Vito Acconci: A swathe of something – it could almost be a liquid – swoops out from under the glass overhang above the entrance to the building. It’s as if a liquid has been flung out from under, and frozen in the air.The swathe is a flow, a curve, an undulation, that sweeps across the plaza out to the corner; it’s subjected to gravity, and descends toward the ground as it flows – it rolls like waves as if flows. The flow is embodied, the liquid is solidified, into a gob, a glob, a blob that functions as a roof – a far-flung roof – over the plaza.

The roof should not be an object within the site but an instrument that transfers the site, and transmits the site: it’s as if the surroundings are formed, and transformed, into a roof. The roof is mirrored, above and below: the ground rises up to the roof while the sky falls down. So that the roof can stand up, it’s pulled down: openings are cut out, and from the rims the roof is stretched down to the ground to make columns. As the roof is pulled down, it’s also pulled up, into a funnel: sunlight comes in and shots down across the plaza, like a spotlight, like the spotlights on-stage inside the Performing Arts Center Under the glass overhang, another funnel is pulled down from the roof; it shoots artificial light toward the Center entrance. At the bottom of each column, the structure that holds the surface is built out into a ring; the pipes are multiplied to make seats around the column. But you don’t have to sit outside: as the roof is pulled down to make a column, an arch is left open below so that each column can be entered – the surface is folded up to make a ring of seats inside. The smaller column, near the building, seats 10 to 12 people, and might be used as a meeting room.

The larger column, at the corner, seats 25 to 30 people, and might be used as a performance area, outside the official theater inside. Outside the column, it’s as if you’re inside; the pavement below is reflected up onto the roof above you -- it’s as if you’re sitting inside the ground. Inside the column, you’re outside; the sky is your roof, and sunlight pours down on you from above; the wall that circles around you reflects the sky – you’re sitting inside a room of sky. (While you’re alone inside in the sky, your legs and feet are visible from outside, under the surface that’s folded up to make seats.) At night, light comes from the opposite direction: from the ring of seats inside the column, from the ring around the funnel in the roof, light shoots up toward the sky – it bounces across the circular walls and shoots back down into the plaza.


Performing Arts Center
Cannon Center for the Performing Arts
255 N Main St
Memphis, TN 38103
United States

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Urban Art Commission
Memphis Arts Council
Carissa Hussong
UrbanArt Commission
Dewhurst Macfarlane

Light, Metal
Stainless steel (mirrored and perforated), fluorescent light