Patch is a long-term installation in the Mona Campbell building at Dalhousie University. A response to the building’s LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, sponsored by the Canada Green Building Council), the work reacts with light and subtle motion to the digital ‘smart’ systems that monitor and control the building’s internal environmental conditions and energy use.

Installation view

A cluster of robotic lanterns – each representing an individual classroom in the building – gently rock back and forth with intensity relative to the carbon dioxide levels in each room.  The collective behaviour of all of the lantern modules forms a representation of the human occupancy and intensity of architectural usage throughout the building. A second layer of data representation runs through the overall colour of the piece. For example, the deep blue glow is interrupted with patches of green, yellow, and violet as spikes in water consumption occur.  Energy use, solar wall radiation, and steam levels also effect colour changes over time.

Inspired by the proximity to the green roof of the building, the work resembles a ‘patch’ of digital garden, where long, curved fibre optics might bring to mind blades of blowing grass.  The title also refers to the process of ‘patching’, or connecting a signal path to transfer information between related components of a system, in this case between the built environment and its inhabitants.  As a long-term installation, the artwork is expected to undergo development and modification over time, and in computing, this process of updating or fixing code is often referred to as ‘patching’.

Patch is sponsored by the Dalhousie Art Gallery and the College of Sustainability with financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts. This project would not have been possible without the support of the following people and agencies.

  • Canada Council for the Arts
  • Omar Khartabil, Senior Project Manager – Facilities Management, Dalhousie University
  • Matthew McKinnon, Facilities Management, Dalhousie University
  • Rochelle Owen, Director – Office of Sustainability, Dalhousie University
  • Dr. Sarah Bonnemaison, Assistant Professor – Architecture and Planning, Dalhousie University, and co‐Director of @Lab, research centre for innovation in architecture and textiles operated by Dalhousie University and NSCAD University from 2009 – 2012
  • Dr. Steve Mannell, Director – College Sustainability, Dalhousie University
  • Greg Sims, artist, jeweller, designer for design help with various components of Patch
  • Melissa Schwegmann, for assistance with design and architectural drawings
  • Jewelery Department, NSCAD University, for usage of their 3‐D printer
  • Dr. Stephen Brooks, Assistant Professor – Faculty of Computer Science, Dalhousie University
  • George Cotaras, President and General Manager – FOWLER BAULD & MITCHELL Architecture
  • Peter Cherry, Johnson Controls
  • Jude R. Moore, Johnson Controls
  • Robert Warner, Advanced Manufacturing Group, Dalhousie University
  • Stephen Mayne, Facilities Management, Dalhousie University