Artesia, Metrotown’s new nature-inspired high rise, is all about bringing sophisticated serenity to an urban setting with its discerning collection of one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences.

It also aims to foster a deep sense of community among those who live there. And one of the ways it’s doing this is with an intriguing new public art piece.

To create the piece, Vancouver-based real estate development group Qualex-Landmark has collaborated with renowned art group Random International, who are known for their experimental contemporary artworks.

Marilyn Clark

The artwork will feature a group of rotating, coloured monoliths that invite viewers to interact and form their own interpretations. Set for incorporation at the building’s entrance, the piece only adds to Artesia’s already impressive architecture.

We caught up with artists Hannes Koch and Florian Ortkrass, founders of Random International, to find out more about the unique installation.

The power of public art

“Public art is really important in harnessing the power of the collective act,” Koch and Ortkass tell Daily Hive.

“The sculpture is being inserted into the daily life of a neighbourhood and a growing community with all the associated quotidian activities: work, travel, leisure, learning, play, port, and, of course, simply being. It allows for so many different kinds of connection, interaction, and co-creation between the public and the piece, collectively and individually.”

Engaging with the monoliths creates a myriad of reflections, shadows, and vistas, which transform the appearance of the surrounding space subtly, but continually.

The evolving nature of the artwork creates an ever-changing visual effect for the residents of Artesia, nearby workers, and passersby.

The interactive element

Individuals can physically arrange parts of the artwork however they wish, such as by turning pieces to face them. By doing so, they augment the landscape around them.

“In this work, we’ve decided to focus on exploring the experience of visual ‘filtration’ that is so omnipresent in our digital lives today. With this sculpture, we’re bringing this intangible concept into a physical, human space in that we encourage our audiences to manually mix and remix the way the sculptural elements filter their perspective. One is invited to mix colour, shape, and perspective precisely as one wants it — until it’s changed by the next person.”

The most important thing, they say, is to come to this piece with an open mind, as there is no right or wrong way to interact with it, nor any one single interpretation. More so, it is the perceiver that brings meaning to the piece.

“The mind is a meaning-making machine, and that’s vital, of course, but there is also so much power in letting the senses, instincts, and intuition lead the way,” Koch and Ortkass explain. “We want to see what perceptual possibilities open up when the built environment intersects with the dreamed environment in this sculpture, and not just in one-offs but over repeated encounters with different seasons, times… emotional contexts. It’s through these encounters that the piece is both explored and created.”

The creative process

One of the most important things during the creative process was to ensure the piece, once placed on site, would augment the surrounding environment physically. Testing and mapping this out was a complicated process.

“Placement of the individual monoliths that make up the sculpture was really important and had to encompass site lines and pathways to full effect, which can be difficult to explore virtually, even when all the information is there. How do you know if it will feel right?”

Next was colour. They knew colour would be the heart of the piece, but deciding which ones to use took time.

“It’s through the layering and contrasting of individual colours that the piece overall has affective power. We wanted to unpack an idea of a ‘digital palate,’ colours that signify the virtual, but not in a nostalgic way tied only to printing, etc. Something richer that fully encapsulates the vividness of life online today.”

The finished piece will be Kohk and Ortkass’ first-ever public artwork in Canada and embodies ideas that they have long wanted to bring to fruition.

The Artesia community

At Artesia itself, the goal is to build a community where everything flows together naturally — health, wellness, and family life.

It is located in a quiet part of Burnaby on an idyllic tree-lined street, yet you’re never far from everything you need. It’s just a short walk from the Skytrain, Metropolis at Metrotown, vibrant restaurants and cafes, and several parks.

The building’s light-filled interiors, modern design, and refined amenities all exude a constant connection with nature and create a feeling of calm and well-being. Residents can make use of a well-appointed fitness centre, an infrared sauna, an outdoor hot tub, a sun deck, a music room, and a BBQ and dining area.

The artwork by Kohn and Ortkass serves as the final brushstroke in creating an environment that transcends the ordinary.

“This is your artwork. From the moment of installation, it begins the next part of its life, where your interactions generate and regenerate the art. It ceases to be solely by Random International. For us, that is simply terrifying, but it’s also the reason we do what we do.”