Vancouverites will be able to influence the look of one of the city’s most recognizable structures—and in turn, the local skyline—once OH!, a new public art installation, launches this summer.
Situated outside Olympic Village’s Tap and Barrel (1 Athletes Way), the project is comprised of a scale model of Science World’s distinctive dome that’s covered with 240 movement-detecting sensors and LED lights. Visitors are invited to place and move their hands over the mini sphere during which it—as well as the Science World building visible from across False Creek—will light up according to their actions in real-time.
Six possible animations with various colours and patterns, such as sparkles, bands, and waves, may be displayed. The piece does this by sending data captured through the sensors to Science World via a wireless cell-phone network. Software developed by Tangible Interaction, the local art-and-design studio responsible for the installation, controls the light emitted.
Alex Beim, founder of Tangible Interaction, tells the Straight that he first conceived of the idea in 2009 when Science World replaced its exterior bulbs with smart, manageable LED iterations. However, it wasn’t until this year that the stars aligned, and with the support of Science World and a grant from Creative BC, the project came to life.
“When I go to work, I go past Science World,” Beim relays by phone. “And every time I drove by, I thought, ‘Oh, it’d be so cool to do this project.’ And it just stayed with me for a really long time.”
Known for his experimental public-art showcases around town, which include the Vancouver Aquarium’s annual underwater light display, Jelly Swarm, and downtown Vancouver’s incoming activated alleyway, FIELD, the Uruguay-born creative director shares that he was drawn to the concept of OH! due to its spirited whimsy.
“I think when you’re in front of such a massive building, such an iconic building, and you’re able to change it, control it, animate it in some way, you do feel like a child,” he says. “You feel like a little kid…and for a moment, you kind of feel like you’re at the centre of the world. And it’s quite beautiful and playful.”
A champion of interactive public-art installations, he explains that such projects help build community and encourage social interactions in urban settings—especially with technology and social media now so prevalent in our lives. He hopes that OH! will inspire Vancouverites to strike up a conversation with a stranger or engage with one another at and about the site. “If I can create a piece that makes people excited and curious and feel completely present for five minutes,” he says, “I’ll be over the moon.”
OH! is free to use and view. It launches on August 4, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., and will open on both Saturday and Sunday during the same time periods that weekend. During this time, Science World will light up in rainbow hues in celebration of Pride.
The installation will open every Friday and Saturday, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., thereafter. If interest and reception is positive, Beim states that the project may become ongoing.