ArtVenturist: Beach Bound in Winter
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ArtVenturist: Beach Bound in Winter

Sauna by London's Claire Furnley and James Fox  Photo: Beatrice Paez

“Sauna” by London’s Claire Furnley and James Fox
Photo: Beatrice Paez

ArtVenturist is a new column where we explore public art throughout the city.

BY: Calvin Fung and Victor Huynh; Claire Furnley and James Fox
LOCATION: Balmy, Kew and Ashbridges Bay (between Woodbine and Victoria Park avenues)
INSTALLATION: Feb. 15, 2016 – March 20, 2016

Uninviting as the beach can be even on a mild winter day, scores of families with children and dogs in tow still waded through the damp sand to check out the fanciful Winter Stations temporary public art exhibition at the Beach this past weekend.

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Each winning interactive display of the second Annual Winter Stations Design Competition was built around a lifeguard stand and constructed with the theme “Freeze and Thaw,” reflecting Toronto’s mercurial winter weather.

Artists, designers, and architects from around the world were asked to submit designs that “may highlight a static moment or phase in winter,” and “observe, reflect, or contrast the immediate waterfront landscape with its banks of snow and frozen ice.”

Team Toronto, or graduate students Calvin Fung and Victor Huynh, invaded the beach with a haphazard mass of what at first glance look like wooden stars, or starfishes. “Flow” was a big hit with children, who took turns prying 3D “ice crystals” off the structure and tossing them back into the jumble (one of the death stars narrowly missed a wandering pup at one point). It clearly delivered the competition’s criterion of being “playful and provocative.”

“Sauna,” conceived by London’s Claire Furnley and James Fox, is by far the most ingenious and engaging of the installations dotting the shore. It offers a cozy reprieve from the chill, with its functional wood stove and levelled seating. Surprisingly capacious, “Sauna” can pack a crowd of eight people without one feeling hemmed in or getting too personal as it would otherwise be in a regular sauna.

One reveller likened its utilitarian structure—made of timber and durable plastic walls—to an Ikea design: a seemingly no-fuss setup that can be replicated by hardcore DIYers looking for their next home improvement project. Stepping into “Sauna” is like entering an all-ages clubhouse or a child’s playhouse, where everyone, including dogs, can take cover and have candid exchanges. Those crazy enough to take a polar dip can thaw out in the sauna until Mar. 20.