Studio Robazzo
Innovation by Design

Journal

Robazzo Lights Up the West Hills

On Saturday, September 24, 2016, Robazzo had the thrilling opportunity to be part of the very first annual Light Up The Hiils Festival of Light which took place in Langford, BC. Presented by the West Hills development in collaboration with the West Shore Arts Council, the event was an ambitious step forward in the realms of public engagement, art and creative culture in the newly developed area.

Participants from the local community were invited to design & create their own glowing lanterns and walk a light-lined route through the neighbourhood's parks and public squares after sundown. Along the path were musicians, dancers, and several immersive, light-driven art installations for participants to experience and enjoy. Sound familiar? It's not unlike the concept behind Nuit Blanche ("White Night"), an annual all-night arts festival which originated in Paris and is now practiced world-wide, whereby thousands of people gather in a pedestrian-only downtown for a single night to viscerally experience art and culture.

Studio Robazzo was well represented at this year's Light Up The Hills festival, with not one but two designs on display. The first, our own "Stalagnight" installation, was inspired by natural geological forms and built from black-painted, wax paper-lined laser-cut plywood pieces. We constructed the 9-ft tall Stalagnight over three days in our Studio, fitting it through the front door with only a fraction of an inch to spare on the day of the event.

The Stalagnight Art Installation on-site in West Hills

The Stalagnight Art Installation on-site in West Hills

The Stalagnight Art Installation in progress at Studio Robazzo

The Stalagnight Art Installation in progress at Studio Robazzo

The piece was an experiment in the use of standard materials combined with modern, script-based parametric design to create a never-before-seen sculptural form. With a bright LED light placed inside, the Stalagnight glows through a gradient of perforations and appears impossibly monolithic as it towers above the heads of spectators.

While Stalagnight was indeed a modern & abstract success at Light Up the Hills, the talking piece of the evening was none other than a 16-ft wide, enormous, glowing Giant Peach. Jimbo Insell, a local theatre set, prop and costume designer, spearheaded the Giant Peach project, to be used in Kaleidescope Theatre's production of James and the Giant Peach this November. Studio Robazzo contributed in the form of designing and 3D modelling the structure, preparing CNC cut files, and of course helping with waffle assembly (and disassembly) of the 12-ft tall Peach on-site.

For us, this project provided solid proof that large-scale, sturdy structures can be efficiently built using the waffle technique we explored with our Thinklandia Parklet, leading to a series of questions and conversations about small-scale architecture in this format; waffle tiny homes may someday be a real possibility!

The importance of public placemaking events and festivals, especially those featuring surprising, immersive, interactive and sometimes provocative art, should not be underestimated; it is this kind of transformation, from familiar neighbourhood to unexpected art-infused experience, that invites the everyday person to delight in the magic and mystery of the imagination. It is this kind of community activation that makes people feel that the place they live is overflowing with culture, creativity and excitement, even when the festival is over. As hundreds of West Hills residents and visitors wandered the site of Light Up The Hills, excited and enthralled by the installations around them, some enthusiastically dressed in LED-lit costumes and carrying all sorts of homemade lanterns, the value of this kind of public engagement became evident. 

Robazzo is especially excited about this recent development in the local arts and culture scene, and we are hopeful that one day the Greater Victoria Area will have its own concentrated all-night arts festival. In fact, Canada has a history and annual tradition of all-night Nuit Blanche-inspired art festivals in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax, Charlottetown, Saskatoon and Kamloops so far. Who's to say that Victoria, or Langford, shouldn't be next?

Check out the official Light Up The Hills video (above), and don't miss our Stalagnight at 1:04. Congratulations to the organizers of a successful inaugural event, we are eagerly looking forward to see what next year's Festival of Light has to offer.

Christina Robev