Client: Tridel and Hines
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $250,000
II BY IV DESIGN
II BY IV DESIGN
Fabricator and Installation
Refraction is the longest acrylic art installation in the world. It creates a calm, whimsical, and contemplative environment in the lobby of Aquabella—the third and most luxurious building of the Bayside Toronto, which is the city’s largest waterfront community. At 40-foot-high, this Kaleidoscopic installation takes advantage of the unassuming high-ceiling space of the lobby, creating an ethereal feel that is reminiscent of being underwater. It features continuous single fabricated acrylic pieces that dynamically change with the light throughout day/night.
The word ‘refraction’ refers to the passing of light through an optical prism, causing a vibrant spectrum of colour. Though industrial, acrylic—and its various colour options—offer the ability to transform any space into a polychromatic environment when meeting natural or artificial light. Framing this central installation, a monochromatic composition of the natural material palette provides a neutral backdrop. The ephemeral effect created through these colourful acrylic beams floods the entire generous lobby of Aquabella to create an intimate-yet-animated space—a semi-public thoroughfare—for the residents, the waterfront community, and the international visitors of Toronto and its beautiful Lake Ontario.
Refraction refers to the change in the direction of a light wave passing from one medium to another. The goal to design, fabricate, and install ‘Refraction’ was to create a calm, playful, and reflective environment in the lobby of Aquabella. Lakeside, the interiors of the lobby, as a result, are reminiscent of being underwater while the light permeates through. An ode to water, the ephemeral effect created through the acrylic beams floods the entire lobby space with rays of polychromatic light. It also interacts with the public, as they are able to view it through the double-story windows, catching the attention of all those who pass by whether it’s day or night. This colourful installation is framed by a monochromatic composition of natural materials to provide a neutral backdrop. Throughout the day, the generous volume of the lobby offers an intimate-yet-animated space—ideal for reflection, and dynamically rendered with a playful changing of the light. The conceptual design process took up to eight years to complete, and one year to fabricate, bringing together an international group of fabricators from Germany, Spain, and Portugal under one community.
The interior designers value-engineered this installation to keep it on budget. Engineering and fabricating required focused preliminary studying including stress test calculation as well as structural and rigidity reports. Acrylic pillars this long and heavy—at 9.5 meters high and up to 160 kg at their heaviest—had never been extruded. They were built overseas, transported back to Toronto, and incorporated within the construction of the lobby, which proved to be a challenging process. The ground floor windows were removed to install each piece separately. Each pillar had to be transported and installed by hand and stored in a temperature-controlled environment in order to preserve fabrication integrity. They also required solid support since they are not attached to anything in the ceiling. Thus, 350Kg Nero Marquina Marble stone was selected as the foundation holding multiple acrylic pillars. Furthermore, a custom table for the pieces had to be engineered with a rare gluing technique that laminates two pieces of acrylic together to complete the design intent.
The project is unique due to its sense of place, connected to the surrounding waterfront landscape. Though industrial, acrylic—and its various colour options—offered the ability to transform this lobby into a polychromatic environment while encountering natural and artificial light. The ephemeral effect created through these colourful and soaring acrylic beams floods the entire lobby of Aquabella, animating its space. In the background, a monochromatic composition of the natural material palette provides a neutral frame for this central installation. This juxtaposition renders the generous volume of Aquabella’s lobby into an intimate-yet-animated moment, an other-worldly thoroughfare, for the residents, the waterfront community, and the international visitors of Toronto and its beautiful Lake Ontario.