Windscape transforms public square for Luminato Festival
Toronto.com June 05, 2012
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
No, it’s a windsock, which by day looks like an oversized carrot in flight but at night takes on endless colours and plays choreographed stunts to take us on flights of fancy with musical partners.
The windsocks are perhaps the most striking element of Windscape, Luminato’s welcoming hub in the heart of Toronto’s Entertainment District. But it is just one of several witty and resourceful tricks used by Diamond Schmitt Architects to transform David Pecaut Square (originally Metro Square) into an inviting fantasyland for the 10-day festival.
Until opening day on Friday, this is still a work in progress, but one thing is clear: for the first time in the festival’s six-year history, Torontonians can clearly find and enjoy Luminato’s heart and soul. And as I discovered while sneaking a peek at Windscape the other day, it promises a magical setting capable of putting the whole city into a festive mood while transforming a somewhat helter-skelter public space into a coherent home of creativity.
Its godfather is Jorn Weisbrodt, artistic director of Luminato, who sees it as the first in a series of annual designs for the hub created by different architects each year.
Weisbrodt’s goal is to revolutionize the way the people of Toronto see their city.
“It’s the embodiment of the festival as a fifth season, the short but impactful blossoming of seeing the city in a different light, and congregating to share emotions, music and each other,” he explains.
That sounds great as a goal, but the best news is that a team of wizards from Diamond Schmitt has exceeded Weisbrodt’s lofty notions by creating a smart, technologically sophisticated playground that celebrates the temporary pleasures of festival-going.
“It’s a cross-collaboration,” says Clyde Wagner, Luminato’s general manager, and resident guru in all technical and production matters.
On the one hand, that means a visual arts creation, a sculptural object.
On the other, it’s an installation that serves a multitude of purposes, wrapping around Luminato’s huge stage, now big enough to accommodate 60 musicians from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra who will perform a rare, free outdoor concert on closing night, June 17.
Even before you focus on the windsocks, you’ll be drawn in by the wide band of ribbon that sweeps through the square, like gift wrap around the stage and the entire square. The ribbon dances whenever there’s a breeze. More than 100 metres long and 6 metres high, it’s reminiscent of the fabulous Central Park Gates created by Christo, the acclaimed Bulgarian-born New York installation artist.
Then there are nine windsocks, more than 3 metres long, rotating on dual axes supported by two motors each, helped along by fans pushing 12,000 cubic feet of air per minute and a state-of-the-art system that illuminates everything under the night sky.
Created in collaboration with artist Mitchell F. Chan, these programmable, interactive sculptures swivel and rotate, swell and deflate, change colour and intensity, resulting in a kind of symphony of colour and light
The windsocks will show off their showbiz skills in short after-dark presentations on which various choreographers collaborated with composer/artists featured at Luminato, including Rufus Wainwright and Philip Glass.
Key players on the Diamond Schmitt team for this project are Michael Leckman, Brad Hindson, Marcin Sztaba and Jack Diamond.
It’s clear Windscape has already raised the spirits of Luminato CEO Janice Price, who is hoping thousands of festivalgoers will feel likewise.
“This installation is so cool that I’m as excited as a kid a few days before Christmas waiting to unwrap the presents,” she says.
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