Time to bundle up.
BY: Ellen O’Gara; Michaela MacLeod and Nicholas Croft
INSTALLATION: January 21 through to February 26, 2017
LOCATION: Toronto Music Garden; HTO Park; Queens Quay
A winter survivalist’s guide might look like this: bundle up, locate the closest opening to an underground walkway, and make a dash for the cozy indoors.
For all the patriotic declarations of Canada as the “True North,” we don’t always appreciate winter. There’s a whole network of tunnels underneath the city’s surface to get lost in—the PATH in Toronto, the Underground City in Montreal—designed to minimize our exposure to the harsh elements of winter.
Icebreakers, a month-long exhibition of public art scattered along the waterfront, invites Torontonians to break out of their winter bubbles.
Tucked within an open field within the Music Garden, you’ll find “Winter Diamonds,” a shimmering constellation of jewels made of wood and polycarbonate sheets that take inspiration from snowflakes.
“I am inspired by the power of repetition, embodied in the snowflake structure,” says artist Ellen O’Gara, of Platant, an architectural firm based in Denmark. “The diamond is a simple module, but when repeated, the structure becomes complex.”
The parallels between the two designs aren’t a stretch of the imagination. Snowflakes, or “snow crystals” as scientists refer to them, are also a lot more complex than how we tend to represent them.
We know that no two snowflakes are alike, but most images make them appear symmetrical. In truth, finding symmetry in snowflakes is a rare occurrence.
O’Gara designed the diamond cluster in the hopes of creating a “modern electric version of a bonfire” for the public to huddle around and converse.
That urban spaces can be transformed into a gathering place even in the bleakest months isn’t a foreign concept to O’Gara. She stumbled upon Icebreakers’s predecessor, Winter Stations, while doing research for her own installation for Copenhagen’s equivalent, the Winter City exhibition.
O’Gara had to see Toronto’s version in person, so she flew over in the thick of winter and was able to connect with project co-founder Ted Merrick, who later invited her to participate.
She was struck with the contrasts of Canada’s winter, particularly the wild fluctuations in temperature that we’ve come to expect. “One day, [there was] 20 centimetres of snow, and the next day, the snow was out and people were wearing T-shirts,” she says.
Michaela MacLeod and Nicholas Croft, the artists behind “Icebox,” play with the idea of contrasts in the Canadian winter landscape: the seemingly lifeless physical world set against the intricate world that lurks underneath the surface of frozen water, and the warmth of the indoors juxtaposed against the freezing outdoors.
The black “Ice Box” rests on the man-made beach carved out at HTO Park. The box itself is a temple of sorts, a refuge to escape the blustery beach and a space intended for introspection.