International Sculpture Center
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Joseph O'Connell

Chinook Arc
15' x 28' diameter

Chinook Arc is an interactive, illuminated sculpture created as part of a new urban park where downtown Calgary meets a historic residential area. The form draws inspiration from the historic Beltline Streetcar loop that once encircled the neighborhood, as well as the Chinook arch phenomenon that periodically blankets the sky. These two influences inspired the crisp edges and rounded curves seen in the work. The enclosed space within the sculpture frames the sky and becomes an immersive color environment in the evening. Visitors to Chinook Arc can control the lighting through an optical sensor that projects the movements and colors it sees onto the sculpture. Visitors can wave their hands, move colored objects or play a movie on their cell phones in order to create their own light sequences. With this commission, Creative Machines worked with the city to create an impressive community event celebrating the artwork featuring food, performances by local dancers in and around the sculpture, and an original score inspired by the art composed by Lorna MacLachlan, a Calgary composer. Chinook Arc was constructed specifically to endure the extreme weather conditions found in Calgary. Careful design and engineering allows for thermal expansion, snow loads, and drainage. In addition, all the lighting and electronics were CSA certified. The monumental sculpture has already become a landmark in the community, operating as an energetic focal point where people congregate for events, stop on their evening walks, take their engagement photos, or duck under to escape the noise of the surrounding city.