Visiting Germany-based artist Tomas Saraceno's new installation in New York City's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a bit like viewing the Manhattan skyline through a fairground fun house. Inside the geometric bubbles of polished steel and clear Plexiglass, visitors experience a sometimes disorienting mix of reflective and transparent panels, twisting scenes of Central Park, the sky and other museum-goers.

Turning one way might reveal a scenic, upright skyline of the city; look up and you'll see another visitor's feet on the see-through ceiling above you; turn again to see your own reflection, confused by this collection of stimuli, in one of the mirrored panels.

The 20-tonne structure is about 16m long, 9m wide and 8m high and is made of 16, 12 or 14-sided small rooms. It's Saraceno's first major US installation and opened to the public on 15 May, where it will remain until its final showing on 4 November. Visitors may enter the art 15 at a time for 20-minute intervals after paying the museum's entrance fee.

Saraceno's Cloud City is part of his Cloud Cities/Air Port City installation series which also exhibits in Frankfurt. The artist wanted to experiment with creating new, futuristic living spaces in unusual locations and drew inspiration from bacteria, bubbles, and communication networks. For this specific installation, Saraceno wanted to take his series further and create a piece of physically-interactive art that appears to defy gravity.

Cloud City was transported by an open-bed truck to the museum where each pod was lifted one at a time to the top of the building by crane. Saraceno marks one of numerous artists who have used the gardens as a canvas since 1987: earlier exhibitors including London sculptor Anthony Caro and American artists Doug and Mike Starn and Jeff Koons.