Lansdowne’s Moving Surfaces sculpture has a Northern Window to our skies


Northern Windows uses recorded sky data to illuminate Moving surfaces with vibrant colours.

Photo credit: Andrew O'Malley

Jill Anholt took inspiration for the sculpture Moving Surfaces, which overlooks the Great Lawn at Lansdowne Park, from Ottawa’s waterways. The dynamic lighting evokes the link between the history of the site and moving waters including the nearby Rideau Canal. In the most recent evolution of the sculpture artist Andrew O’Malley connects sky and water with his digital painting Northern Window.

Moving Surfaces was designed as an innovative public artwork that is both permanent and temporary at the same time: an iconically scaled site-specific sculpture that also provides a canvas for ongoing changing digital content by other artists. Jill Anholt created Moving Surfaces first digital work which captured the timeless journey of water as it travels through natural and human controlled movement patterns along the Rideau Canal. Jill is delighted to have Andrew’s work: Northern Window installed on her sculpture to further her vision of Moving Surfaces being able to continually reflect the world around us in different and changing ways.

Northern Window interacts with the lighting of Moving Surfaces by creating sequences of patterns that evolve throughout the day with the movement of the sun and changes in the skies and weather patterns. At a glance the viewer may see the lighting as static, however a sensor on the sculpture records the current sky and updates the sequencing every minute to reflect the changes in light from sunrise to sunset, through clouds and starry skies alike.

For example, daylight hours can be represented by bright oranges while bands of yellow indicate cloudy periods, and when the sun is setting the colours on the sculpture will transition to purples and pinks during the dusk hours. The pattern on the sculpture’s lighting will show the entire picture of the bright daytime sun, sunset and dusk hours of the early evening using varying colour palettes.

“With the lighting arrangement in the shape of a large wave or graph (Moving Surfaces sculpture), it was well suited to my work with data,” explained Andrew O’Malley. “Working with weather data, specifically sun data, I was able to connect the work with the sky in order to complement Jill's content, which connects the work with the water of the Rideau Canal.”

The intricate process of designing, programming, and testing the work in studio took a few months, but COVID-19 delayed the reprogramming of the sculpture itself.

“In a broader sense, the piece is an evolution of 10 plus years of my lighting work practice and experiments with translating weather data to light patterns,” added Mr. O’Malley.

The original lighting display created by Jill Anholt for Moving Surfaces was in constant motion. The transition of colours in Northern Window is gradual combining the current sky conditions with what has been recorded over the past 18 hours.

So if you are walking, jogging or cycling along the Rideau Canal or enjoying a patio at Lansdowne, you will see the change in lighting and colours and get a glimpse of what our skies looked like throughout the past day. Each time you see it, it will provide a unique view for you take in – reflecting our everchanging skies and weather.