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06.05.2012

Public Art Takes Condo Buildings Beyond the Ordinary

In a shaded courtyard in the front of the government offices at 900 Bay St., there’s a lovely sculpture of the “Three Graces” by Gerald Gladstone set into a large fountain. I’d never really noticed it until the day an exuberant toddler, intent on breaking free of his mother’s grasp, almost ran into it.

The fountain, created in 1972, is an impressionistic beauty, and has become so integral to the courtyard that you only notice if you actually stop to take it in.

But contemporary life offers so many more distractions that it takes more than sculpture — or oomph, or razzmatazz — to get our attention. Which may be the motivation behind some very large and unusual public art pieces recently installed in the city.

When developers Lanterra and Lifetime Developments unveiled the Vito Acconci installation at WaterParkCity, it was the most recent addition to a significant list for the city. Encircling the entire condo at 219 and 231 Fort York Blvd., the iron installation took 257 pieces of precast concrete and over 200 steel fabricated sections — installed onsite — with structural engineer Peter Sheffield working his magic to make it appear as though it springs forth as one seamless piece.

The sculpture arcs smoothly over the front entry, subsiding in black fencing that skirts the building while creating seating for passersby. It also scales the exterior of the building in spots as if hurled up by a tsunami.

Zoning for the building required a fence and Acconci, an accomplished New York-based artist with international experience in architectural installations, determined it should not be predictable. He envisioned something that would allow people to imagine and create for themselves how they might use the space because “people shouldn’t be subservient to architecture.”

Acconci, in fact, believes that the architecture of the future will be mobile. That much is evident in WaterParkCity.

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