Herald / Harbinger is a permanent public artwork by Ben Rubin and Jer Thorp commissioned for Brookfield Place in Downtown Calgary, Alberta.
Herald / Harbinger incorporates a collection of data feeds to illustrate the interrelationship between human activity in Calgary and the natural system of the Bow Glacier in the Canadian Rockies, which exists in a perpetual state of physical transformation. The Bow Glacier’s meltwater feeds into Bow Lake and flows downstream in the Bow River, eventually passing through the centre of Calgary on its way east to Hudson Bay, creating a powerful connection between the city and the ice. Inside the south lobby of the Brookfield Place tower, the glacier’s real-time perturbations are visually juxtaposed against the aggregated trajectories of nearby pedestrians and vehicles in a sequence of overlapping visualizations, while outside on the plaza the glacier’s ceaseless activity is made audible, creating a visceral public presence for this restless complex of ice, rock, and water.
Portrait of a Glacier in Sound, Light, and Stone
The artwork uses a specially constructed solar-powered seismic observatory near the glacier to monitor the rumblings, cracks and shifts of the moving ice. The observatory continuously reports these movements via satellite to the artwork in real time, where they are expressed as sound and moving light. The glacier’s movements are rendered visually as vertical displacements of horizontal scan lines, and also audibly in the Brookfield Place lobby and outside on the plaza. A pattern set into the granite surface of the the Brookfield Place plaza maps the movement of the Bow Glacier from the Wapta Icefield down toward Bow Lake.
A City in Motion
The artwork juxtaposes the glacial rhythms of the ice against the patterns of urban life. As they walk across the plaza, Individuals pedestrians’ paths are aggregated over the course of each day and rendered as directional symbols. The artwork also tracks average inbound and outbound vehicular traffic at 14 locations around Calgary. This information is aggregated and displayed as seven “roadways” on the artwork’s seven LED fixtures.
For more information, please visit artsbrookfield.com/art_collection/herald-harbinger
The Center for Data Arts
The Office for Creative Research
Artists’ Design Team:
Jeff Kavanaugh, University of Alberta
Sensor Design and Installation:
Shah Selbe & Jacob Lewallan, Conservify.org
Glacier Sound Recording:
LED Fixture Fabrication:
Stone Plaza Fabrication:
Alberta Marble & Tile Ltd
A. Lacroix Granit
Public Art Consultant:
Brookfield Place Calgary Design Team:
Design Architect: Earle Arney
Arney Fender Katsalidis, London
Landscape Design Architect: Shannon Nichol
Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, Seattle
Executive Architect: Dialog, Calgary
Executive Landscape Architect: Carson • McCulloch, Calgary
Special thanks to:
The artists gratefully acknowledge the support of:
Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
Video © 2018 Glacial Ventures Ltd.