Client: Menkes Developments
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $286,600
Fela Grunwald Fine Arts
Nicolet, Chartrand, Knoll
The new Four Seasons Hotel and Residences in Yorkville, one of the most prominent areas in mid-town Toronto, comprises two buildings sharing a courtyard park. The design brief called for a highly visible art wall sited at the eastern edge of the Claude Cormier designed courtyard. A water feature was desirable.
The main goal of the art wall was to mitigate the view onto the firehall expansion wall that abuts the courtyard. As well, there was a concern in unifying the past and present, the architecture of the hotel with the area’s Victorian history. The wall was to be integrated into the environment of the courtyard, completing the periphery and presenting a unified space, and be accessible not only to the owners and guests but also to passersby. Lighting was required to ensure visibility of the art component during the evening. A water feature was desirable.
These goals, together with a very narrow footprint, informed the art wall's concept. Rosewall clearly defines the edge of the garden and refocuses the view away from the firehall wall. Climbing roses, a favourite flower in the Victorian era, combined with stainless steel, propose a dialogue between the neighbourhood’s Victorian buildings and the hotel’s contemporary architecture. Translucent clouds of mist emerge from grating along the base of the wall every twenty minutes, beckoning to the passerby. During evening hours, a play of subtle colours slowly moves across the wall and through the mist.
Once the proposal was selected, I met with Claude Cormier, the landscape architect, and Fela Grunwald, the art consultant, to discuss the concept and develop it further. Technical drawings were made and approved by the engineers. I worked closely with Michel Bernier, the fabricator, at each phase of the wall fabrication (using plywood panels to test the water jet cutouts before proceeding to the stainless steel, designing the grid details, hand finishing the metal etc.) There was much coordination with Piscines Soucy and the client for the water component. A section of the wall was sent to their company for testing with a mockup basin to determine the mist and lighting program. This was further refined once the art wall and water equipment were installed on site.
A couple living in a neighbouring building told me of their delight in watching people of all ages walking and playing through the mist. Aside from succeeding in inviting passersby into the garden it also acts as a cooling agent in the hot and humid Toronto summer. The courtyard received the CSLA 2014 Regional Citation/Design award.