More than 100 chains of light and several dozen sculptural glass vessels hang from the northwest corner of Simons in West Edmonton Mall, undulating with the flow of people. According to artist and architect, Philip Beesley, whose work has appeared internationally, the art installation, Simons Aurora, is an interactive environment. It looks like a combination of ice crystals and a coral reef — it even acts like the latter — the crystalline tentacles are fitted with hundreds of sensors, which move when people walk near it. Meanwhile, columns of lights flash as they sway.
“It’s art, but it’s not a framed painting on the wall. This piece doesn’t behave,” Beesley said during the unveiling of the installation.
The installation, made from more than 400,000 custom-fabricated parts, is the final touch on the gigantic WEM clothing store that’s the first of the brand outside of Quebec. The Edmonton location just won Chain Store Age’s Retail Store of the Year Award and it’s easy to see why — designed by Toronto-based figure3, the 118,000 square foot store reflects the company’s desire to create innovative spaces. Descending change rooms and digital photo booths where shoppers can share their finds on social media are interspersed into a space that’s more unique than your average big box store. Each location even has its own signature art installation.
“Art is about beauty and art is hope. It allows us to see what we’re capable of creating and building and doing together — that’s the most beautiful part of it,” said co-owner Peter Simons. Beesley developed Simons Aurora over 12 months, and he says the concept actually evolved when he stepped into the retail space.
Simons Aurora was unveiled on February 20 at the WEM location.
He was inspired by not just the look of the store, but the contents within. “I was inspired by how it might be possible to develop a language that was almost an extension of dresses. I’m talking about the look of haute couture, it’s all about imagination; we’re talking about possibility.”
Recently, Beesley collaborated with Dutch fashion designer, Iris van Herper, creating dresses which meld fashion with architectural techniques. One of the dresses is imbued with microprocessors, giving the piece of clothing the ability to move; it has a life of its own, much like the Simons Aurora.