A pair of major new public artworks were recently celebrated at a pair of recently opened new Toronto buildings. Yesterday and today we celebrate both events, artists, artworks, and buildings, each with their own story. This story focuses on Two Circles by Toronto-based artist Micah Lexier, at the Bay Adelaide Centre East Tower, a recently opened development by Brookfield Property Partners on Adelaide at Yonge Street in the city's Financial Core. The 44-storey tower, designed by KPMB Architects, is possibly the most elegantly simple of all Toronto office towers, while at ground level its high-ceilinged and transparent lobby is most notable for the huge black circle seen by passersby eastbound on Adelaide.

Two Circles, Micah Lexier, Bay Adelaide Centre, Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesTwo Circles; Solid, facing Adelaide Street, image by Tom Arban

Two Circles can be understood in very simple terms—one big black dot facing Adelaide and its companion outlined circle facing Temperance Street—but it is more than that. This very elemental work begs a closer look, and Lexier, in his artist's statement, provokes more investigation by viewers by prefacing his thoughts with this quote:

…is “the lawn” what we see, or do we see one grass plus one grass plus one grass...?

- Italo Calvino, from Mr Palomar, 1983 

Two Circles, Micah Lexier, Bay Adelaide Centre, Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesTwo Circles; Outline, facing Temperance Street, image by Tom Arban

From a distance, the circles might appear to be black paint on a white plaster wall. At that level, Lexier suggests that the perfect geometry and universality of circles represents both the scientific and the spiritual. This is a building with a financial services firm as lead tenant—precision is key—but the art also addresses our aspirations for a less tangible kind of wholeness. 

As one draws closer, however, the circles are revealed to be made up of ceramic tiles; stick-shaped, incredible quantities of them, each unique.

Two Circles, Micah Lexier, Bay Adelaide Centre, Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesTwo Circles; Solid, facing Adelaide Street, image by Tom Arban

The white wall is all tiles too. Individually crafted, they were created at Montreal's Mosaika Art & Design Inc.

The south wall has 169 rows of them. The two-floor-high north wall has 263 rows of them.

Each of the south wall rows have 2,068 tiles on average, the north wall rows have on average 1,834 tiles.

Every tile is snapped in half. In fact, some are in three pieces. At minimum, that makes for 1,663,668 pieces—no-one knows the exact total—which were then hand assembled and grouted in sections, and then installed in the lobby in a monumental effort over three months. (A film is being completed that follows the painstaking creation of Two Circles: we will make it available when it's ready.)

Two Circles, Micah Lexier, Bay Adelaide Centre, Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesTwo Circles; Snapped tiles, image by Craig White

There's a staggered line through each row where the snapped tiles join. To create its fall and rise, the haphazardly snapped tiles had to be carefully sorted and ordered. Lexier's intention is to evoke in the lines the minutiae of our existence, like heartbeats from an electrocardiogram, or stock market swings, or the ripples of sound waves. 

Two Circles, Micah Lexier, Bay Adelaide Centre, Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesTwo Circles; Snapped tiles, image by Craig White

These are the bits of life that we only see when we are intentional: when we don't slow down enough to appreciate the detail, it's just the black dot—or the white circle—on the wall.

Two Circles, Micah Lexier, Bay Adelaide Centre, Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesThe Bay Adelaide Centre East Tower lobby by night, image by Tom Arban

On November 27, Lexier got the chance to both be celebrated for the work created here, and to thank those who were instrumental in its creation. Preceding Lexier to the mic were; Ryk Stryland, Senior Vice President of Development and Construction at Brookfield Canada, and project manager for the Bay Adelaide Centre East Tower; Bruce Kuwabara, Partner-in-Charge of the design at KPMB Architects; and art consultant Rina Greer, who shepherded the public art process from artist selection through to final installation, acting as the essential liaison for parties involved. 

Two Circles, Micah Lexier, Bay Adelaide Centre, Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesMicah Lexier addresses the crowd assembled for Two Circles' dedication, image by Craig White

The Bay Adelaide Centre East Tower is identified on Toronto's Downtown skyline by the Deloitte sign. The first phase West Tower is identified by the KPMG sign. Brookfield Property Partners will eventually build a third tower across Temperance Street to the north. The towers are just two blocks away from Toronto's famous King & Bay intersection and King subway station.

Bay Adelaide Centre, Downtown Toronto, Brookfield PropertiesThe Bay Adelaide Centre's East (Deloitte) and West (KPMG) Towers in Toronto's Financial Core, image by Jack Landau

JUST THE STATS:

The artwork occupies the entire surface of both walls of the Bay Adelaide Centre, East Tower lobby. It is composed of over 830,000 hand-glazed ceramic sticks, each broken by hand in half, resulting in over 1.6 million distinct elements. 

The ceramic sticks are laid out in rows. Each row is 55mm tall. The ceramic sticks are irregular in length. Within each row the sticks are aligned at the top allowing the sticks to deviate at the bottom. 

Each stick is broken in half, and the gap between the broken parts creates a meandering line through each row. At one point in reach row this meandering line is disrupted. Every row has one of these disruptions.

The imagery on the South wall is a solid black circle, while the North wall hosts a 38mm (1.5”) wide black line drawing of a circle.

Each circle has the exact same outside diameter of 6710mm.

Each circle is centered on its walls from left to right, and identically positioned from the top.  

South Wall (Adelaide Street)

Wall is 9330mm tall by 7989mm wide

169 rows plus one partial row at the top

Average of 2068 sticks across per row

2068 sticks x 169 rows equals 349,492 sticks, each split in half totaling 698,984 individual pieces

Surface area of total wall is 74.5m2 

Surface area of the black circle is 35.4m2 (black circle occupies 47.5% of the wall)

North Wall (Temperance Street)

Wall is 14504mm tall by 7414mm wide

263 rows plus one partial row at the top

Average of 1834 tiles per row

1834 sticks x 263 rows equals 482,324 sticks, each split in half totaling 964,684 individual pieces

Surface area of total wall is 107.5m2

Surface area of black outline of the circle is 0.4m2 (black outline occupies 0.37% of the wall)

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Want to know more about the Bay Adelaide Centre? Our dataBase file, linked below, includes renderings and more information. If you have thoughts you'd like to voice, you are welcome to join the conversation in our associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.