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01.08.21 – New Circadia wins a 2020 Best of Canada Award

New Circadia (adventures in mental spelunking), the inaugural exhibition in the Daniels Faculty's Architecture and Design Gallery, has been named a recipient of a 2020 Best of Canada Award.

The Best of Canada Awards, given annually by Canadian Interiors magazine, recognize excellence in Canadian interior design projects of any size or budget. New Circadia was one of two winners in the "exhibit" category.

The New Circadia exhibition consisted of a 7,500-square-foot underground space, lined in soft, grey felt. Visitors were invited to drape their bodies with pillow-like "spelunking gear" and then lounge in the "Dark Zone," a dim, cave-like environment suffused with low, relaxing sound.

The project was curated and designed by former dean Richard Sommer, in partnership with Natalie Fizer and Emily Stevenson of Pillow Culture, a New York–based interdisciplinary design studio. They were inspired by the Mammoth Cave Experiment, a 1938 sleep experiment conducted by University of Chicago professor Nathaniel Kleitman. "We are interested in using architecture to convey the idea that idling and resting isn't unproductive," Sommer told U of T News.

New Circadia's soundscape was designed by assistant professor Mitchell Akiyama. Assistant professor Petros Babasikas and artist Chrissou Voulgari created Oneiroi, a space within the New Circadia exhibition where visitors could record descriptions of their dreams, or listen to dream descriptions recorded by others.

A number of special events took place inside the exhibition during its five-month run, including guest lectures, film screenings, and musical performances. New Circadia ended in mid-March, when the Daniels Building closed to the public at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Circadia wasn't the only Daniels-connected project to be honoured with a 2020 Best of Canada Award. Kohn Shnier Architects, co-founded by associate professor John Shnier, won in the "residence" category. Williamson Williamson Inc., co-founded by associate professor Shane Williamson, won in the "institutional" category.

Photograph by Bob Gundu.