New Circadia (Adventures in Mental Spelunking), Toronto

John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto

Photography: Bob Gundu

A 7,500-sq.-ft. gallery space in the subterranean level of an architecture school wasn’t given over to an art exhibit so much as turned into a soft  underground cave, a place where if you were a student coming out of an exam you’d want to hole up for a while — which was exactly the designers’ intent. Dim lighting, white noise and soft surfaces were meant as an antidote to the effects of normal architectural practice, instead encouraging states of rest and repose as a counterpoint to our plugged-in 24/7 culture. Visitors first entered through a “Transitory Zone” illuminated with an artificial skylight created via digital technology to give the impression of perpetual daylight. Here, guests donned a variety of body wearables, or “spelunking” gear, meant to comfort the body. Then, moving through a felt envelope, participants enter the “Dark Zone,” a rock-like lounge-scape covered in a thick, soft felt and animated with responsive sound and light. Upon exiting, a third zone called “Oneiroi” invites visitors to anonymously record their personal dreams and listen to those recorded by others.