Mark Mandelbaum will tell you that Sandro Martini's Glass Memory, the fresco and glass artwork that now adorns the jewel box-like restaurant space at the north end of Burano condominiums, is the most perfect public artwork in the city. Now Mandelbaum, as Chairman of Lanterra Developments, is biased—he's just spent hundreds of thousands on the work—but he has quite a strong argument: few pieces of public art serve both the building and the public realm beyond it as well as this one does. While integral to its part of the building, Glass Memory is in the most transparent and open-to-the-street space imaginable, encased in a parallelogram of glass that refelects the shape of the architectsAlliance-designed tower rising above it. Dynamic and warm, Glass Memory is big enough, bright enough, dynamic enough, and open enough to transform not just an interior space, but a whole city corner.

Glass Memory fresco unveiling party at Burano condominiums, image by Craig White

What did it take to make Glass Memory? We have a very quick look at part of the long process: Glass Memory has been in the works for approximately six years, when the Burano project was first conceived. A trip to Martini's studio in Milan early in the process shows some of his methods and thinking in this video by Sarah Keenlyside of Inkblot Media.

Back here in Toronto, Martini and Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance were able to sit down to work out how both the space and the art would work together, so the space was designed to showcase the art, and the art was designed to showcase the space. Artists are not normally afforded the opportunity to help shape the space that their art will reside in.

Once the decisions were made about the space, Martini started work on the fresco panels, and most were created in his studio in Milan over the last years. Those panels where then shipped across the ocean and installed early in the summer of 2012. About 40% of the panels were left to be created here in Toronto.

Glass Memory during installation in the summer of 2012, image by Craig White

To create the final panels, a grooved base coat of plaster was applied to the wall of the space. With that layer dry, another layer, this time one with the lime and sand mixture dyed black with pigment, was then applied above. Martini was assisted in this process by the team from Toronto-based Iconoplast Designs.

Martini's assistant applies a black under-layer to the wall, image by Craig White

The black-pigmented layer serves as a contrasting based for when the top-most white layer is applied and scratched off in places.

Plaster mixed with black pigment for Glass Memory, image by Craig White

The upper layer, lying deep in the plastic bag below, is a mixture of specially chosen fine sand, water, and an Italian-mined lime that cured for two years. It is applied to the walls after the black layer has dried, and then the race is on.

The plaster has been curing for two years for Glass Memory, image by Craig White

Before the top white layer dries completely, pigments and applied and lines are gouged for the effect the Martini wants. Below, Martini displays the rich, simple colour pigments that he uses in his work. Glass Memory includes yellow, orange, red, blue and purple over the white wall, with black slashes underneath and above to create the warmth, the tension, and the energy that will be forever embedded into the eventually rock-solid artwork. Martini eschews green in his work: it is too natural a colour, and Martini wants a very man-made dynamism embodied here.

Sandro Martini shows a bottle of pigment to be used to colour the fresco, image by Craig White

Sandro Martini stands by portions of the fresco Glass Memory, image by Craig White

To show better the technique for creating the work, some smaller plaster panels were poured outside the space on the patio.

A few weeks later, with the fresco completed on the walls and the scaffolding removed, it was time to bring in six huge glass panels, edged and coloured with the same pigments. Shipped in crates from Milan, each panel weighs 1500 pounds and was outfitted with hardware to either secure it to the ceiling with cables or to allow it to stand on its own on the floor. Internationally renonwed Toronto-based art fabricators Soheil Mosun was engaged to prepare and hold the panels in place.

With the fresco complete, etched and coloured glass panels await installation, image by Craig White

With everything in place, the space now looks like this.

Glass memory is complete with glass panels installed, image by Craig White

The space still awaits outfitting as a restaurant. Lanterra Developments are searching for just the right operator for it now, and we hope to be able to announce an opening in a few months time. While you're waiting to visit the artwork while dining on something delectable, you might want to learn more about Sandro Martini and his art, and you have an in-person opportunity tonight. As per the poster below, Martini will be speaking at OCAD University, free for anyone to attend. Check out the details.

Sandro Martini speaks at OCAD University about his art

We will be back to give an even more in depth look at the creation of Glass Memory when the space opens as restaurant in coming months.

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Related Companies:  architectsAlliance, Baker Real Estate Inc., Isotherm Engineering Ltd.