“…if the room is steady the capula shall rock…” (Reyes 2007) steel, plastic, and the public: the life and care of Capula XVI and XVII in the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park Pavilion

Liz Brown


Capula XVI and XVII, created by Pedro Reyes as part of an international series, are an intriguing exploration of utopian space and architecture. The large suspended steel armatures, wrapped by Mexican basket weavers with vinyl cordage, invite audiences to explore the space both within and without the light-filled areas while swinging gently. Reyes’ interest extends beyond the creation of his artwork to their future existence and has created an interesting conservation opportunity.

These two Capula were designed for the Seattle Art Museum’s new Olympic Sculpture Park Pavilion in 2006. Reyes’ work with a fabricator to design strong plastic cordage with good light stability has been successful in previous installations. However, in a busy sculpture park with exuberant children, the pieces were exposed to unforeseen stresses. As a result the cords broke frequently, necessitating weekly maintenance. Reyes consulted with the weavers and designed a new tying system, which he relayed to the conservators. Other areas of breakage were solved with new melting techniques and adhesives. After a group of lively teenagers caused a weld to break and one Capula to fall, Reyes redesigned the hanging points. The impermanence of plastic and the interactive nature of the pieces raise questions that have created a rewarding conversation between artist, conservator, and fabricator.

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2008 | Denver | Volume 15