For Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2016, our team of one fashion and six architectural science students designed and built a public, atmospheric installation at Urbanspace’s 401 Richmond site.
SOMNIUM was conceived with inspiration from multiple sources: aquatic organisms, bioluminescence, fabric, and light. The result was a breathtaking experience through a space, where stepping around the modules made them come alive with light, sound, and motion – it was one of the most popular installations of the night!
401 Richmond – our host space for this project – required that no installation damage the building before, during, and after the event, which meant that we had to design a superstructure to support the whole installation. Furthermore, we only had 2 evenings to set up the installation prior to the 12 hour event. While the modules and the wall panels were prefabricated off site to mitigate scheduling concerns, it was the construction of the walls and the wiring of the modules that was the ultimate challenge.
The first step was the set up the walls and the beams, creating a ceiling grid that we could suspend the modules from. Once the beams were hoisted into place, we began hanging the modules while our two programming experts quickly began to wire, calibrate, and troubleshoot as required.
The result? Nine fabric modules equipped with PIR thermal sensors. Upon approach, the sensor transmitted information to on-board arduinos which were connected to a central unit. The local arduinos controlled servo motors and addressable LED lights on each module, causing the fabric to undulate while the lights brightened and the installation came alive with hues of violet and blue. Meanwhile the central platform controlled the sound. Each module had a distinctive sound sample upon waking – along with beautiful ambient aquatic music (designed by Kevin Liu) – they created an underwater garden of light, movement, and sound.
A complex mesh of technology, art, and architecture, SOMNIUM created a deeply personal and unforgettable experience.