lake ontario

Glowing sculpture made of garbage will float in Toronto Harbour this summer

A glowing cylindrical sculpture composed of up-cycled materials is set to float in Lake Ontario at Harbour Square this summer. 

Inspired by the cosmology of the Aanishinaabe which views water as a portal to unseen realities via reflection, "Up-Cycle" brings awareness to the difference between recycling plastic versus reusing it. 

The floating public artwork is designed by Javid Jah in collaboration with Anishinaabe Knowledge Practitioner Dr. Debby Danard of the Three Fires Teaching Lodge, fabricated by Qube Inc, and commissioned by Waterfront Toronto.  

The majority of the components of the sculpture are up-cycled from previous public art projects and include 456 bottles containing individual messages grouped in clusters of six. 

The HEX clusters are bolted to a welded aluminum frame that sits on several hollow float docks, anchored to the base of Lake Ontario. 

As part of the project, the design team is inviting the community to submit messages that will go in the sculpture's 456 re-used plastic water bottles. 

The messages, which can be submitted via a Google form, can take on many variations, including written thoughts, sketches, or even a video. The team will then print out the messages onto black or white paper and insert them into the bottles. 

"We realized that these bottles are opportunities for people to share messages of hope, healing, and transformation given the plight of so many marginalized communities fighting for access to clean water," the project description reads. 

The deadline to submit a message is May 29, and once the sculpture is installed, visitors will be provided a QR code that connects them to a 3D model of the sculpture, where they can choose to see the message inside any of the bottles.

The sculpture also comments on how climate change in the form of increased global temperatures is speeding up the water cycle, which disrupts precipitation patterns and leads to floods and drought. 

The project is set to be installed in early June, and as its name suggests, will be up-cycled to a new site after as part of its comment to maintaining a sustainable public art practice. 

Lead photo by

Waterfront Toronto


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