Inspired by the birds of Nathan Phillips Square, Flightpath Toronto was a mass-participation spectacle that invited citizens to rediscover the possibilities and wonder of urban flight, with interactive lasers & hundreds of members of the public flying above a public square.
For Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2011, the square hosted an urban flight school, an interactive visual airscape, and fly-lines that enabled hundreds of people, enwinged, to re-imagine the city and the way we move through it.
By exploring the square through the eyes of its primary inhabitants, urban birds, can we reinvent our relationship to the city we build together? By reclaiming airspace as public space, can we consider other forms of transit, rediscover the 'sport' in 'transport', and excite imaginative possibilities for our urban infrastructure? Are we game to experience, through flight, a city that is fluid and three-dimensional?
Flightpath Toronto's swarms of flying people experiment with an urban-scale participatory proposition: one that demonstrates the pleasures of emissionless urban mobility and creates a shared memory of a possible future. Flightpath Toronto was a collaboration between Usman Haque, architect/artist and Natalie Jeremijenko, engineer/artist, uniting his expertise in participatory urban spectacle with her expertise in bird flight and urban natural systems.
If you were to reimagine the city, how would you commute?
If you could redesign transport, would you prioritize wonder & pleasure?
Would you choose a fast, low-cost & emissionless means of transportation?
What flightpath would you take to work, to school, to visit your friends?
How can you experiment with the possibilities of urban flight?
We humans have become accustomed to reading a city in two dimensions but urban birds reveal a city that is fluid and three-dimensional. They pull our eyes through the spaces between buildings, onto inaccessible planes and perches; they show us the texture of the wind, and give us access to an immersive experience of urban natural systems. Birds make visible the very medium we have difficulty seeing and the shared airspace that we need to reimagine.
Our innate human desire for unrestricted free flight (evidenced by the constancy of such dreams across time and culture) has become stifled by the practical aspects of mass transportation systems we use every day to get from A to B. Even airplane flight through human airports has become, with all its security theatre and inconveniences, an uncomfortable experience undertaken only of necessity.
However, in combining the low-cost-infrastructure of flylines with the populist pleasure of thrill, the beauty of aerial movement can demonstrate a radically novel form of urban mobility. Can this fast, emissionless, pleasurable and safe urban mobility propose new possibilities for our shared urban future? This moment in history is a good time to consider collectively other forms of transit, to rediscover the 'sport' in transport, and to excite imaginative possibilities for our shared urban infrastructure.
With this project we create a shared civic memory of a possible future: Flightpath Toronto!
Core team members:
- Usman Haque & Natalie Jeremijenko, artists & creative direction
- Joe Sellors, Special Events Supervisor - Production, City of Toronto, and all-round Superhero
- Natasha Emery, Events Supervisor - Programming, and all-round Superstar
- G. Craig Hobbs, Production Manager
- Nitipak 'Dot' Samsen, Production Designer
- James Schaffroth, Wing development & fabrication
- Joe Champelli & Stu Cox, ZFX, fly-lines & harnesses
- Cindy Sypher, engineer
- Bill Kirk, safety consultant
With special thanks to the following for extra-diligent fabrication & site work:
- John 'Snappy' Snaphoek
- Fran Gallardo
- Austin Houldsworth
- Casey Wong
- Dohyung Kim
- Grace Canaan
- Lukas Sheurer
- Arielle Pollock
- Bland Hoke
- Ben Winter
- Roxanne Melliza
- Pangolin Mac OS X driver by Jonathan Laventhol
Flightpath Toronto was commissioned by the City of Toronto for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2011 and took place on Saturday October 1, 2011.