Montreal-based electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has been selected to install a new permanent artwork at Sherbourne Common, following an international call for proposals. ‘Unfinished Arch’ is the first permanent public art commission in Canada by acclaimed Mexican Canadian Lozano-Hemmer. His large-scale interactive installations fuse architecture and performance art. He uses an innovative material palette, which extends to electronics such as heart-rate sensors, speakers, LED lights, and robotics. This latest addition to Waterfront Toronto’s public art program seeks to solidify Toronto as a destination for innovative and community-enhancing artwork. 

A rendering of Unfinished Arch by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer looking south over Lake Ontario. Image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Lozano-Hemmer’s 9-meter-tall piece is an incomplete arch that will extend over the southern lawn of Sherbourne Common. One end of the arch will be left suspended in the air. The piece invites visitors to push upwards against the floating edge of the massive, cantilevered arch, in the act of supporting its weight. Once contact is made, sensors will illuminate the arch until the participant removes their hands.

“Unfinished Arch alludes to the familiar paraboloid shape found in many mid-century modern arches, and its perplexing, truncated nature gives way to a civic engagement: visitors may wish to “complete” the arch by stretching their arms to ground it,” says Lozano-Hemmer. “The project was designed with accessibility in mind: visitors of all heights can reach the suspended end of the arch, while tactile pavement tiles and a locator tone help guide the visually impaired.”

A rendering of Unfinished Arch by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer part way through the lighting up sequence at dusk. Image courtesy of Waterfront Toronto.

Waterfront Toronto’s public art program aims to revitalize the waterfront, enhance Toronto’s cultural vibrancy, and help create complete communities. Chris Glaisek, Chief Planning and Design Officer at Waterfront Toronto, believes that ‘Unfinished Arch’ will become the centrepiece for the East Bayfront neighbourhood, complementing existing art pieces, which include ‘Light Showers’ in Sherbourne Common North and ‘Light Keeper’ in Aitken Place Park. The new piece will become a landmark, a focal point for visitors and residents, helping to anchor Toronto’s waterfront as a leading arts and culture destination. “Placemaking is such an important aspect of what we have to look at when we’re building complete communities, when we’re inviting new neighbours into a part of a city that we’re just building” says Deputy Mayor Ausma Malik, Councillor Ward 10.

‘Unfinished Arch’ will be fabricated in Toronto by Eventscape and is anticipated to be completed in 2025.

Established in 2003, Atelier Lozano-Hemmer creates media art that uses technology to connect people and transform public spaces.The studio’s team of 26 includes architects, programmers, artists, scientists, writers, designers and musicians who are split between R&D, production, and a non-profit. Lozano-Hemmer describes his artworks as “often incomplete and out of control pieces that depend on participation for them to exist, [and] where the public is an integral part of the artwork.” 

A longer video linked here explores the inspiration behind the artwork while introducing you to its creator, how it fits into the larger East Bayfront Public Art Master Plan, and the importance of public art in creating complete communities. 

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