Client: North Vancouver Public Art Program in partnership with Polygon Promenade
Location: North Vancouver, BC, Canada
Completion date: 2020
Artwork budget: $187,000
Jill Anholt Studio
Janelle Drouet, Yuliya Savelyeva,
Richard Thacker Works
Sea Change is an interactive light-based artwork that activates the pedestrian experience within a bus exchange transit tunnel in North Vancouver. The work celebrates the area’s connection to its waterfront by marking the location of the historic tideline within the site and by serving as a symbolic reminder of the importance of water to humanity. Transforming a dark and menacing underpass into a dynamic and engaging experience for viewers, the artwork mimics the ephemeral and magical feeling of being immersed within a body of water as if light rays were penetrating an undersea world through water ripples above the tunnel. This watery effect is created using a series of LED lights that reflect light patterns off textured mirror-polished stainless-steel panels located at specific angles to create dynamic textures on the wall and ground surfaces of the tunnel. When the tunnel is unoccupied the artwork cast a gentle quiet shifting of turquoise colours however, when a pedestrian or cyclist enters the tunnel, a wave of intense blue or green light is triggered to ripple across the wall in front of them.
The location for this public art project is a busy bus transit tunnel that also connects to the City of North Vancouver’s Sea Bus Terminal. A pedestrian and cyclist trail travels directly through the outer edge of this underpass – a linking segment of the Spirit Trail which runs along the entire waterfront of the Northshore of Vancouver. As part of improvements and development of the surrounding area into an exciting new cultural, residential, and commercial hub, the 34-year-old bus tunnel was in great need of an artist intervention to make it feel welcoming and safe, as it currently existed as an unattractive, dark and inhospitable space with few redeeming features. The goal of the project was to use the medium of light to make this location more visually dynamic, engaging, inviting and playful for all members of the community. The installation was required to be robust, easy to maintain and designed to allow for ease of removal/reinstallation should the tunnel require general or major repairs in the future. There was also an overarching desire for this illumination artwork to speak to the local character, stories and/or histories of the site to create connections between people and place.
During our team’s research for this project, we uncovered a historic map that showed the original water’s edge of North Vancouver from a hundred years ago running right along our project site, which provided the main inspiration for the artwork. Our team conducted multiple experiments within the actual tunnel space and in our studios, bouncing light off different materials as a reference to the refraction qualities of light traveling through water. Our explorations eventually achieved a similar effect by reflecting light off textured mirror polish stainless steel panels. From here we moved onto more formal optic and geometric studies and prototyping both analog and digitally to create an artwork that could achieve the immersive and interactive effects we were after yet could also be installed around the many existing obstacles and design constrains within the space. During our installation and commissioning process, we tweaked the sequencing and timing of the lighting effect to allow it to work very closely with viewer movement using motion sensors at either end of the installation and to achieve a softer shimmery “resting state” when not activated.
This was a truly inventive and collaborative art and design project that completely exceeded the client and the community's expectations. Sea Change was recently honoured with an IES award (Illuminating Engineering Society) for 2021.