Saturday, February 25, 2006

One of the best looking buildings

The Domes with a few guests

The Ice Dome project

The Ice Dome project investigated temporary buildings and used natural weather conditions to create a winter ice shelter. It was a collaboration between Ana Rewakowicz and Steve Topping. Our art practices link experimental building projects with everyday experience.

In the winter of 2004 we worked in an abandoned “Gulf” garage on Bernard in Montreal to make a test for the idea we developed together. Many thanks to "Resturant Thailand" at Bernard and StUrban, Montreal for donating the garage. The most important detail for us was to design an ice building that would work well with the natural characteristics of freezing water. We started with strings; dripping water over strings, we made a series of fir tree shaped fragile ice structures. Finally we went with an inflated dome with a curve based on a drooping string. The shape worked structurally and it also encouraged the formation of ice at all the right times and places. A striking phenomenon we witnessed with the first test dome was the bizarre combination of focused and ambient light on the interior. (see photos) This inspired us to continue with a larger project.

In February 2005 we constructed a series of ice domes on the Lachine Canal in Montreal. Our goal was to make domes that would stand freely for several weeks. In order for that to happen the ice had to be built up to the thickness of 1 - 3cm at the top tapering to 3 - 7cm at the bottom. The domes were 20 feet in diameter and 8 feet in height. We used an inflatable, parabolic in shape, form that was used for one dome after another. Ice forming mist came from low-pressure nozzles on the surface and the ice build quickly. We pumped water from the Lachine Canal using a 12V water pump operated on a deep cycle battery. In fact the whole project was powered by car batteries including an air-blower we used for the inflatable, as well as a heated Teflon wire inserted inside water tubing in order to prevent it from freezing. When the ice layer was shaped (8 - 12 hours at -10 to - 20C) the form was deflated and taken out leaving a transparent ice-shell behind. People entered the ice shelters, skated, enjoyed the light inside and got a taste of rural winter experience within an urban setting.

Thanks to Quartier Éphémère and Canada Council for the Arts.

Steve Topping