"We aim not to replace nature but to interpret it", says the design collective Troika's Eva Rucki. She and partners Conny Freyer and Sebastian Noel created "Nature in London", the exhibition that ran along three angled edges of this year's British Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo this summer. First came Open City, illuminated by 'Light Rain Engines', clusters of ceiling-mounted moving lights and optical lenses, poetic and playful; then a translucent urban diorama (Green City) and finally Living City, an array of fictitious plants devised with the help of scientists. Leaves that stop thieves, mushrooms to absorb sound and gold weed for making computers out of had overtones of the 'design noir' duo Dunne+Raby's work. These amusing creations worked as a thought-provoking foil to the Seed Cathedral theme of the pavilion (designed by Thomas Heatherwick), in conveying the limitless nature of biodiversity.
Now Shoal, a new multimedia installation by Troika inspired by natural phenomena, in Toronto has been created for the Corus offices in building on the city's waterfront at Queens Quay East. Totally cut off from Toronto, the area used to be industrial but is being transformed into a landscaped boulevard as part of the masterplan by West 8 and DTAH. 'The coastline is a battleground between the man-made environment and nature', says Eva Rucki. They "looked at making a reintegration of nature" along the 50 metre long passage in the Corus offices which leads to the lake. Spanning this corridor 467 fish-like objects wrapped in iridescent dichroic acrylic foil and suspended from the ceiling rotate rhythmically around their own axis, displaying the movements and interdependency typical of shoals of fish. With no added lighting, the fish take on a different colour from different angles, driven by stepper motors.
The 5,000cm long, 360cm wide installation creates a liquefied effect, changing the spatial experience of the corridor and opening up the surrounding architecture towards Lake Ontario. "Our work is very context-driven, and a mix of disciplines", says Rucki. "The fish are like little products". Unlike the usual art installation, Troika's work pays great attention to detail, craft and manufacture, including custom built electronics made with generative software designed by Karsten Schmit (aka Toxi), co-founder of PostSpectacular, a London-based computational designer merging code, design, art and crafts skills. "We use a lot of technology to simulate and replace nature", says Rucki. Shoal is also inspired by birds moving, and emergence in nature. Every installation Troika creates has its distinct identity: "This isn't the most commercially viable route", says Rucki, "but the opportunity to look at something different." Lucy Bullivant