Matthew Powell | August 19, 2013
Fascinated with the sky and goings-on overhead, sculptor Mark Reigelman has bolted a full-size rustic cabin to the facade of a hotel in San Francisco as a public-art commission. He named two other installations White Cloud and Blue Birds. The avian theme continues with The Reading Nest—though this one is firmly planted on the ground, outside the Cleveland Public Library through the fall.
A Cleveland native, Reigelman remembers discovering Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree at the library, but he’d never really considered its architecture. So he began by studying the plaza between the original beaux arts building, from 1925, and the 1999 addition. He sized up the plaza’s honey locust trees, noted a scholarly owl roosting in a trunk, and came up with the concept of a colossal freestanding “nest.”
Concept and construction are of course very different. With only a week and a half to complete the installation, things started to go awry. Placement of the nest’s “twigs,” reclaimed two-by-fours both painted and unpainted, was always intended to be determined on-site, but the amount required was miscalculated. Additional lumber had to be trucked in. Then, halfway through, as Reigelman and five assistants worked at a frenetic pace, clocking 12-hour days, the nails ran out. So the team scoured northern Ohio for more. That crisis averted, two of the industrial nail guns and their 50-gallon compressors went on the fritz. Reigelman was delirious, yelling out his rallying cry: “Think like a bird!” He made the unveiling with just days to spare.
The finished structure came in at 13 feet high and 22 across, bigger than originally intended. “It designed itself. I just helped it along,” he says. It now glistens in the summer sun, thanks to the two shades of gold paint he’d chosen. The color is a mythological allusion to the golden nests of griffins—stone versions of which guard the library entrance.