A Grove of 16 Trees

The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver is not a stranger to public art. In one of my very first blog posts (way back in 2011!) I talked about the poem by Liam Gillick that wraps around 17 stories of the hotel, inspiring my foray into architexture.

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Now there’s another public artwork in the plaza of the hotel, unveiled in March of this year. 16 is the name of this stainless steel and glass grove of trees that run the 30 metre length of the hotel’s main entrance in downtown Vancouver. Designed by Omer Arbel of the boutique design company Bocci, 16 is a permanent installation whose name reflects the 16 stainless steel frames or “armatures” on which hang glass apples fitted with an LED light so they illuminate at night.

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I have yet to see the artwork at night, but based on the images from Bocci’s website, it looks stunning. Even during the day, it stopped me in my tracks to take in these abstract trees with their flattened proportions. The 480 apple leaves are made of 3 separate layers of molten glass, individually poured on top of each other so that no leaf is identical to the other leaf (very much the way nature works). There are some cool videos you can watch on the website as well that show that the tree and branch system is made up of tinier segments that click into place, allowing someone to rearrange the trees in different configurations.

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This thin and lightweight-looking orchard of trees is an elegant solution of bringing visual interest and conversation to the hotel’s outdoor plaza. And yet because of the mythic proportions that an apple tree carries in Western culture, along with my interest (okay, maybe addiction) to the TV series Once Upon a Time, the trees in 16 seem to carry a magical and mysterious quality to them, as if I am stepping back into a fairy tale time where I’m looking at these artificial constructions with a mixture of awe and suspicion.

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