River Lines - CODAworx

River Lines

Client: HIP Developments

Location: Cambridge, ON, Canada

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $-1

Project Team

Creative Director

Mouna Andraos

Daily tous les jours

Creative Director

Melissa Mongiat

Daily tous les jours

Overview

Orchestral maneuvers in the square—an interactive pavement turns a new public plaza into the stage for one big impromptu musical ensemble.

Anchoring the publicly accessible courtyard of the district, a wave-patterned interactive pavement, embedded with 62 light rings and sensors, along with 12 custom audio tiles, becomes an exercise in musical collaboration. With different instrument sections assigned to positions across the pavement’s surface, players connect the dots to create arpeggiated clusters of notes that harmonize along with the playing of others to create one rich tapestry of music.

The axis running diagonally across the pavement represents the high-water mark of the 1974 flood, a historical moment of city-wide collaboration. A special soundtrack is created around this axis and played every hour, underscoring our dependence on the natural world with a moment of magical synchronicity that results from the players’ cooperative efforts.

A large screen overlooking River Lines plots the players’ movements on an animated map for everyone watching.

River Lines is one of two Daily tous les jours pieces commissioned for the Gaslight District, as part of the developers’ vision of creating “Joy Experiments”—public realm interventions designed to foster community through play.

Goals

River Lines shifts the city’s attention back to its long-neglected waterfront, its design, and musical score highlighting how for more than a century the river has been central to the rhythms of community life. River Lines tells a story in which the city’s past and present overlap, using the river and historical floodline as thread.

The artwork sets a 15x15 m creative play space in the city’s largest public plaza, creating everyday opportunities for joy and play. Play is one of the things that brings us together—people drop their inhibitions, happiness hormones are released, and strangers spontaneously connect.

Keeping the site a multi-functional space was a key consideration when designing River Lines. For concerts, movie nights, the artwork is turned off and blends in any special event.

Process

The Gaslight District is a mixed-use development built on the site of a 19th century foundry, an ambitious effort to revitalize their historic downtown and make it a place of connection and culture for the larger community, embracing more progressive ideas about urban development.

Developed through research, interviews and engagement workshops with the local community and stakeholders, the artwork is an exemplar of how investment in the public realm is essential to reimagine and activate places and encourage collective interactions.

Our methodology is based on designing for multiple levels of engagement: for the advance users who will find all the easter eggs and trigger secret modes, for the longplayer who will play for hours, for the ones who will just make a few steps and still trigger a few notes while passing by, and people just watching. We know that by engaging in physical play, the body releases stress and anxiety. So does just watching; seeing others acting silly and having fun also turns out to release our happiness hormones.

Additional Information

River Lines is designed to bring people of all ages, cultures, abilities together to make music with their entire body. Many design details make the artwork inclusive: the interface integrated to the ground surface, enabling feet, hands and wheelchairs to engage; multiple sensory stimulations—light, sound, tactile ground surfaces; simplicity of the interaction—just step on a dot to trigger notes and change its color, building on intuitive play of connecting dots to explore different visual and sound compositions. The screen interface adds another sensory layer to the experience for people with hearing difficulties, and onlookers.