‘Lighten Up’ is a new permanent public artwork that seemingly floats above a major intersection in midtown Toronto, by LeuWebb Projects.
Seven massive balloons nestle under a building’s canopy, inviting curiosity. Conversely, another balloon lies deflated on the ground, speaking to the possibility of disappointment, and the moments we all feel overwhelmed.
The artwork is visible at a distance from the urban environment, and is revealed through movement around the neighbourhood. Long tails on the balloons seem to wave in the breeze as the city bustles all around. The balloons remain in a state of tension, appearing ready to float onwards if dislodged by a gust of wind.
While appearing to be weightless, the balloons are actually cast aluminium, highly polished, and custom tinted with translucent lacquer to glow in the sun and radiate at night under the lights of the city. Each balloon weighs over 300 Kg and has been carefully calibrated and secured to the building’s structural system.
The fabricator for the project, Punchclock Metalworks, coordinated a complex process that included working with a specialized foundry to cast the oversized balloon pieces, as well as partnering with polishing trades and collaborating with a structural engineer to design the hanging system and connections.
In observing and experiencing the life and activities that surround the vibrant midtown corner in Toronto, LeuWebb developed an appreciation for the rhythms and energy of the site, fed by thousands of people who use and navigate this space on a daily basis.
In studying the expansive canopy of the building, LeuWebb were interested in exploring how the volume of the space and the play of light within it could be translated to people in different ways, from pedestrians walking beneath the overhang, to those emerging from the subway, to those passing by in cars. The canopy is a temporary place of refuge for people, away from the elements of wind, water, and sun, and serving as an amenity for use by passersby.
Official Project Name: Lighten Up
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Client: First Capital Realty
Artists/designers: LeuWebb Projects
Fabricator: Punchclock Metalworks
Design team: Christine Leu, Alan Webb (LeuWebb Projects)
Lighting Designer: Mulvey & Banani Lighting Inc.
Project sector: Public art, lighting design
Project completion date: October, 2021
Photographer: Doublespace Photography