The Austin Chronicle
This summer, Austin will unveil an ethereal steel sculpture that will bejewel its streets for the next 50 to 100 years. Made by Austin-based artist Beili Liu, the work offers a rare moment of stillness in a bustling hub of city life.
Perched on a street called Electric Drive in the walkable Seaholm EcoDistrict, the 14-foot-tall Cloud Pavilion features a grouping of amorphous, puddle-shaped rings supported by long, tilted poles that point your attention skyward, like the angled falling of rain in the distance. The work shimmers in the urban landscape, so that even as a freight train rumbles above it, cars whoosh along nearby Cesar Chavez, and Lady Bird Lake trickles in the distance, it creates the illusion of people, nature, and infrastructure in peaceful coexistence.
While the sculpture may be stocked with illuminating metaphors, its site provides a glimpse into the real possibilities of creating a more serene, sustainable future. Cloud Pavilion is located on the property of Austin Energy's District Cooling Plant No. 3, a highly innovative piece of environmentally friendly engineering that will significantly reduce the strain on the state's power resources. The plant will produce chilled water in order to lower the temperature of multiple Downtown buildings, increasing the overall efficiency of Austin's energy infrastructure. After nearly a decade of planning, the equipment is scheduled to become operational this summer.
Especially after a historic winter storm that nearly collapsed Texas' electric grid, an extra 10,000 tons of cooling capacity is a much-needed asset. And as dazzling as as "District Cooling Plant No. 3" sounds on its own, the installation of Cloud Pavilion adds an element of je ne sais quoi to an otherwise overlooked but essential feature of a developing Downtown.