College Park gets sculptured Borealis Glow

Artist delivers finishing touch

Glass, steel, LED lights used

Bay St. has acquired a new subtle glow that may remind some of the Northern Lights. A new glass and stainless steel sculpture with digital lighting, created by an award-winning Canadian artist, is part of a new luxury condominium just south of College St.

While developers from Canderel Stoneridge Equity Group and Tricon Capital Group Inc. were planning The Residences of College Park, they realized the height of the two future towers would make them city landmarks. The first phase, which is now built, is 51 storeys and the second phase, which will be ready for occupancy at the end of 2007, will be 45.

“We wanted to give something back to the city to show our appreciation for all the support we’ve received,” says Riz Dhanji, vice-president, sales and marketing, Canderel Stoneridge Equity Group. “So we came up with the idea of having a sculpture made that would reflect the project, and we put a lot of thought into who would do this. It was not part of any art requirement by the city or any other community stakeholders.”

A competition was held by the developers and New Brunswick-based artist Peter Powning was commissioned to create two sculptures — one for each tower. This is Powning’s first public piece in Toronto in his 35-year career. He has created pieces for the Ritz Hotel in New York City and has had gallery showings in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Florida.

“This was unusual for me because I’ve never done a competition before,” Powning says in a phone interview.

“There was a different set of limitations. I was given some thematic suggestions about scale and guidelines and the sculptures had to fit the space.”

The sculptures are each 3.9 metres tall and are made of stainless steel and recycled glass shards of various sizes.

They will be set in granite bases to give the sculptures elevation, adding just under a metre of height. Powning explains that the Northern Lights effect is created by three things: the form, which is a stainless steel mesh exterior, the glass which lies within the mesh, and the digitally-controlled lighting.

“The developers suggested a theme of Northern Lights,” says Powning, who has been named the 30th recipient of the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in the crafts for 2006. “When the second tower is complete, the second sculpture will be unveiled and the pair will be mirrored reverse spirals. The two will look alike but there will be subtle differences. When we have both going they will relate visually and the lighting effects will have rapport.

“The piece is an elegant vessel for light spirals. I’ve used LED lights and there are programmed scripts that light the sculptures day and night,” he says. “There is a simple elegance and the pieces tend to nod in the art nouveau direction. The recycled glass looks like ice to me, which again, is a Northern Lights reference.”

Powning ended up getting the glass from Utah, where he hand-selected every piece. He also made a small number of pieces himself to fit into the form. These glass shards change as the natural light varies during the day, and again as the transmitted light shifts.

Dhanji likes the fact that both residents and passers-by will be able to enjoy this sculpture.

“We wanted to create communities and having something unique in the streetscape is a good way to do this,” he says.

“Because the lighting reflects against the glass, different colours shine. It will light up the street at night with a classy, warm feel.”

Powning says he is not aware of any sculpture similar to what he has created.

“My reference point for this sculpture comes out of my head,” he says. “While it pushed my limits, it still came from the same source as any of my other work.”

Powning’s new sculpture is at 763 Bay St.

To learn more about Peter Powning and his work, visit

About Shelly Sanders

Shelly (represented by Amy Tipton, Signature Literary Agency) is the author of THE RACHEL TRILOGY--Rachel's Secret, Rachel's Promise & Rachel's Hope (Second Story Press).Rachel's Secret received a Starred Review in Booklist and was named a Notable Read from the Association of Jewish Libraries. Rachel's Hope was shortlisted for the Vine Awards for Canadian Literature in 2016. Before turning to fiction, Shelly was a freelance journalist for the Toronto Star, National Post, Maclean's, and Canadian Living.
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