As Toronto grows, so does its increasingly eclectic and fascinating trove of public art. As proposal after proposal triggers an application for rezoning, with developers typically looking to build larger and taller than the existing zoning permits, the City of Toronto is in a position to ask for public benefits in exchange for the increases being sought. Many of the applicants propose to make art a component of their public benefits: if they spend a minimum of 1% of their budget on the art, that benefit can be included amongst the agreements they sign after negociating with the City. This is commonly referred to as 'Section 37' benefits. As prosaic as that term is, the results are often poetic, and we now have a noteworthy collection of works to enjoy that run from the gamut from classic statuary through to devices which explore the ethereal effects of light, and every conceivable permutation in between. 

One developer making sure their contribution to the public realm is a substantial one is Lanterra, and accordingly UrbanToronto has profiled a number of the signifcant pieces attached to Lanterra projects as they have been unveiled over the last few years. We recently brought you a sneak peek at a major new work underway at Lanterra's Burano project on Bay by Milan-based Sandro Martini - more on that next week - and now we can tell you about another major Lanterra project installation which will grace Toronto by mid-2013. Urban Firefly, a 16 metre-high work by London based Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, will soon be installed at $200 million Ïce condos project, the sexy 57 and 67-storey towers now under construction at York Street and Bremner Boulevard.

Light Veils, by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier at the Weymouth EsplanadeLight Veils, by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier at the Weymouth Esplanade, Dorset, UK


Phoaphanit and Oboussier have worked together for over 20 years, and have grown to prominence in Europe over the years, recently celebrating the inauguration of Light Veils, a new permanent installation along the Weymouth Esplanade in Dorset, England. Light veils consists of 7 15-metre high steel columns surmounted by laser beams which project the seaside resort's energy beyond its beach and out to sea. That work was commissioned for the Cultural Olympiad associated with the Olympic Games which are about to get underway in the British Capital.

Here in Toronto, Urban Firefly was the winner of a competition overseen by Public Art Management to determine the public art component of Lanterra's growing Ïce project. The result, early renderings of which follow below, is an artwork that will put the idea of home front and centre in the courtyard at Ïce. Phaophanit and Oboussier quote French philosopher Gaston Bachelard in his 'The Poetics of Space' as the inspiration for their work:

“The house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer”

Urban Firefly work takes the form of a diminutive, powerful three-dimensional ‘house image’ perched atop a mighty yet elegant sculptural ‘stilt’. Urban Firefly will be situated off-centre in the ICE courtyard, set slightly towards the northwest. Its scale is such that it projects up into the opening of the green roof canopy so that the 3D ‘house image’ hovers within this oasis space… notes Phaophanit and Oboussier's website.

Urban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, at Ïce condos, TorontoUrban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, in the courtyard at Ïce condos, Toronto

Urban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, at Ïce condos, TorontoUrban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, in the courtyard at Ïce condos, Toronto

Urban Firefly will be seen from ground level, from the condominium units above, and even from passersby on the Gardiner Expressway. While it might evoke a tree house for onlookers during the day, it will glow warmly and invitingly at night, a new beacon to help create a sense of place in a city where many accuse our recent buildings of creating too much sameness.

Urban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, at Ïce condos, TorontoUrban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, in the courtyard at Ïce condos, Toronto

Urban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, at Ïce condos, TorontoUrban Firefly by Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier, in the courtyard at Ïce condos, Toronto

You can read much more about the project on the artists' website, and we look forward to how it will all come together over the coming year. Not even halfway up yet, the architectsAlliance-designed towers are looking great already with their highly eye-catching cladding, the curved façades accentuating movement through the city with the shifting light throughout the course of a day. You'll be getting plenty of updates from UrbanToronto as Ïce and Urban Firefly progress… and as you know, if you want to see more now, the Ïce dataBase link is below, and you can get in on the discussion in our associated forum threads.