Passengers flying in and out of Victoria International Airport might have spotted spectacular views of Mount Baker, the Olympics and the Saanich Inlet foothills.
In recent weeks, they may have even seen those views somewhere less expected. A brand-new art installation has gone up on the side of Amazon’s sprawling distribution centre depicting the mountain ranges which surround the Greater Victoria region using a special technique developed by Victoria-born Roderick Quin and his Vancouver-based firm Ombrae Studios.
“I call it a kind of cinematic experience, because it’s not a moving image, but it moves in relationship to someone moving by it. It has this three-dimensional, almost holographic effect,” said Quin. “If you are flying in and out of the airport, and moving quickly, it will change really fast. It has this dynamic effect, whether you are on the ground or in the air.”
The special effect – an apt term for the creation of someone who got their start in Hollywood’s special effects industry – is the result of more than 500 metal panels spread out over 400-feet wide and 35-feet high, each consisting of up to 2,000 “pixels.”
But while the pixels most people think of emit light like those which form the images you see on a TV or smartphone screen, the pixels in the display reflect light instead.
Ombrae starts each project by meeting and talking with their client, in this case York Realty of Edmonton, Alta. which built Amazon’s facility, about the high-level goals for the project. From there, Ombrae begins working on a design and with its manufacturing and installation partners to refine the cost estimate as each project is completely different from the last.
The Amazon project, for example, utilized a fair amount of panels which did not go through Ombrae’s process and simply had holes cut into them to form the darker areas of the final design while saving costs.
The design is then iterated on and refined before it is turned into a design code. That code can be sent to the panel manufacturing partner to be precision stamped on a massive machine to ensure each metal flap, or pixel, is angled exactly right to reflect light and cast shadow, eventually forming the final image once installed together.
The end result is a piece Quin hopes will not only support York’s goal of giving something back to the community and softening the controversy which often follows such large box buildings built by corporations, but will challenge viewers to sit there and explore how the art changes as they move, and the different hues of sunlight catch on it.
“I think we hit on a good idea and a good design. It’s something people can reference to their own experience and their own lives in the region,” he said. “It places the viewer in a familiar setting, although it is imaginary. They can investigate their own perceptions.”
For Quin personally, the project is a success simply because it is the first time he has had one of his pieces installed in his hometown, despite Ombrae creating nearly 100 other pieces around the world.
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