There’s so much beauty in the invisible wind

Inverted Lakes installation in Toronto’s Waterfront adds vital dimension to pioneering development

When first planning the Daniels Waterfront mixed-use development in Toronto’s burgeoning Waterfront district, the company behind it envisioned a community rooted in purpose.

Seeking to shed the archetypical cloak often cast on high-rise developments of this kind, the project was to be one that celebrated the arts; one that represented diversity and togetherness.

It was to be a breath of fresh air within a larger district that is being hailed as one of the most important revitalizations in the city’s history.

So it only made sense for its creator to harness that “breathe” in a Heavy Industries-led public art installation appropriately dubbed Inverted Lake that is quickly turning people’s expectations for community art upside down – quite literally.

“With Daniels Waterfront and everything associated with it, we wanted to avoid very clearly, from minute one, developing a prototypical project,” says Brock Stevenson, Director, Design + Building Innovation for The Daniels Corporation, the builder and developer behind the mixed-use retail/office/institutional/residential community situated at the former Guvernment entertainment complex in Toronto’s East Bayfront.

“So when we started thinking about creating a piece of artwork to bring all of pieces within this site together, we saw an opportunity to do something different.”

The 1.3-million square foot “live-work-play-learn-create” community – which Stevenson calls a pioneering project in that it’s the first out of the ground and first to accept occupancy – combines office, retail, academic and entertainment together. It also includes two anchor residential condo towers measuring 36 and 45 storeys, respectively.

Connecting those two towers is The Yard, an east-west pedestrian connection between Lower Jarvis and Richardson Streets that offers a funky combination of retail, cafés and restaurants that border a large public gathering space.

“It was there that we really wanted to see something unique,” Stevenson said of what would become the Inverted Lake art installation. “We knew that, if successful, the centrepiece to this public space would draw people to our site and tie our community together.”

Comprising of 26,000 four-by-six inch polycarbonate “flappers” that create a canopy more than 20 feet above ground level, the installation harnesses the wind coming off Lake Ontario to create a ripple-like effect in the sky above.

“It looks like water. That’s the most interesting part,” says Stevenson, noting the added benefit of how it minimizes the impact of wind to pedestrians in The Yard. “There’s so much beauty in the invisible wind that’s around, and this captures that.”

Envisioned by famed environmental artist and sculptor Ned Kahn, Heavy Industries was brought on board to bring his vision to life. Stevenson notes most of Kahn’s wind-driven work around the world is on a vertical plane – for example on the sides of buildings. In this case, the array was to be spread out over a horizontal plane, which added to its complexity.

“Heavy Industries was able to come in and be a one-stop shop for us,” says Stevenson. “For a long time, we spun our wheels on how we were going to bring this project to life. But by bringing Heavy onto the project early on, we were able to leverage their experience working on projects like this and allow them to bring it all together while still capturing the original vision.”

In fact, he notes that the final version, which is now in place, is virtually identical to the original concepts.

“It feels very much true to form of the vision we originally had,” says Stevenson.

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