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Brookfield brings its public spaces to life

A chandelier made from recycled plastic lids and containers, designed by Canadian artist Katherine Harvey, hung this year in Brookfield’s First Canadian Place in Toronto. Arts Brookfield makes a concerted effort to put innovation and energy into its public spaces.

Arts Brookfield

When Katherine Harvey's breathtaking chandelier made from recycled clear plastic lids and containers first hung in Brookfield Place in Toronto in 2009, the piece turned the building's atrium into an event.

It has since toured other Brookfield properties, its cascading jumble of plastic reshaped into various ways to resemble a wall of falling water, depending on its new location. This year, Ms. Harvey's work once again became a chandelier and was hung in the company's First Canadian Place in Toronto.

Debra Simon, vice-president and art director for the property company's public art department, Arts Brookfield, notes the strong relationship the company has with Ms. Harvey.

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But this isn't just a matter of Brookfield supporting a talented Canadian artist and adorning its lobbies with her work. It's a means of bringing vitality to their office buildings, creating a sense of locale for people passing through.

"It goes to the heart of Brookfield's expertise in place-making," Ms. Simon said. "We really view our buildings not just as bricks and mortar, but as a place where interesting things happen.

"We want to keep putting innovation and energy into our public spaces, by changing what we present to keep our everyday audiences, our tenants, engaged. And to make our buildings magnets for other audiences. It's a way we keep our buildings lively."

Most passing through the office buildings are undoubtedly hardly aware of the effort put into making the office atriums and lobbies feel lively.

Brookfield estimates that 250,000 people pass through First Canadian Place annually, viewing the public art installations in the lobby, watching lunchtime concerts and participating in events in the building's public gallery space.

And now Arts Brookfield, the company's department that programs the installations and performances, is trying to push this sense of a building's vitality into the social media world.

To celebrate Arts Brookfield's 25th anniversary, the company has created an initiative dubbed ArtSetFree, encouraging visual and performance artists to submit videos of their work. The company has received more than 2,000 submissions from 400 artists.

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The idea is for a mass audience to visit artsbookfield25.com and share the videos they like in social media. Brookfield will show a curated selection of the videos on screens in the lobbies of its major office properties. A video by Toronto musician Jesse Cook is among the first instalment of ArtSetFree to be shown at Brookfield Place Winter Garden in Manhattan.

"It's a grassroots effort and a way to engage with an enormous amount of artists over the course of a year and a half," Ms. Simon said.

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About the Author

Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More

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