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LeuWebb Envisions Edgy Installation Art

A designer duo adorns the shoreline and energizes office environments

By Alexandra Caufin
Photography by Naomi Finlay

When you commission Christine Leu and Alan Webb for an art installation, there’s no telling what you’re going to get – and that’s just how their patrons like it. The architects behind LeuWebb Projects have pulled off everything from an interactive inflatable parachute at MaRS, to the rewiring of a 1940s sign for a sound-responsive light show at Nuit Blanche. Oh, and they’re currently developing a design to recreate the Gladstone Hotel’s historic cupola (read: its original tower peak, removed in 1930) using locally manufactured solar panels.

Photo of Flotsam/ Jetsam by Nick Kozak
Photo by Nick Kozak

Leu’s and Webb’s mutual love of architecture powers these immersive, multi-modal works. Last September, Flotsam/ Jetsam reimagined the Ontario Place waterfront during the In/Future arts and music festival. After 3-D-printing miniature versions of the Cinesphere and the pods (designed by architecture legend Eberhard Zeidler), Leu and Webb cast the iconic buildings into hundreds of plaster geodesic domes. The whimsical objects were scattered along the beach to appear as though they had simply washed up on the shore.

“The beginning of Ontario Place was this wonderful moment in time after Expo 67, a utopian time,” says Webb. “At least in the architecture world, the future could be seen as this optimistic thing. A lot of In/Future was exploring what happened with those original aspirations and dreams.”

Each project begins not with a concept, but a site visit, as the duo traces the natural and human-made components until the aha moment strikes. In their latest piece at architecture firm Perkins+Will, they layer dozens of refractive acrylic cut-outs into a kaleidoscopic wall installation that bounces colourful light around the room. Complete with vibrant glowing edges, the prisms are a nod both to isometric architectural drawings and the office’s building designs. “It’s a very monochromatic workspace,” says Leu. “But they have these phenomenal samples everywhere of colourful tiles, glass and paint – that was an entry point to creating something that would indirectly reference their work.”

As for their next trick, they’ve decided to reproduce Flotsam/ Jetsam’s geodesic domes as design objects. “People seemed to want to take them home,” says Webb. He and Leu re-stocked the beach throughout In/Future, but found that the domes kept disappearing.

“This is a move to develop the object-based part of our practice and create shareable pieces that people can have for themselves, beyond the installation.”

LeuWebb Projects curates Grow Op 2017, at the Gladstone Hotel, April 19-23.

Categories: Local Act
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