The History of MaRS

We’ve started researching the history of the MaRS building since we are currently considering installing our voices of innovators piece in the lobby.

Here’s some info from the MaRS website:

Long before MaRS acquired it, the Heritage Building was famously associated with excellence in innovation. Formerly the ‘College Wing’ of the Toronto General Hospital (TGH) from 1913 to 2002, it was both a brilliant architectural centrepiece and a contributor to some of the last century’s most significant medical breakthroughs: insulin, the artificial kidney and the pacemaker, among many others. But its research legacy runs deeper. The new hospital site on College and University was not built simply to update the Toronto General’s facilities. It also enabled a cutting-edge research collaboration with the University of Toronto, inciting the University’s first serious exploits in biomedical research. The health legacy represented by the Heritage Building lies not merely in the numerous innovations it has produced, but in the innovative institutional relationships that birthed them.

Since its official opening on June 18, 1913 and through most of the 20th century, the TGH College Wing stood at the centre of a dynamic discovery district not unlike the new “Discovery District” envisioned by MaRS. It was built upon strong linkages between the TGH, the University of Toronto (which included Connaught Laboratories until 1972), the Ontario Ministry of Health, the City of Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children and other hospitals of the area, all of which are key partners in the MaRS initiative today.

Indeed, the monumental discoveries that arose in Toronto are in large part products of this history of cross-institutional collaboration. In the story of insulin’s discovery and refinement, this collaborative environment might have been the deciding factor. The innovation legacy represented by the Heritage Building thus represents not just a distinguished lineage of medical breakthroughs, but a progressive institutional approach to innovation that echoes today’s push for “convergence innovation.”

Voices of Innovators in the MaRS Lobby – Week 5

Facing South.

We are developing an interactive sound installation for the MaRS building north entrance that will explore the theme of innovation in community and potentially bring innovators together. The installation will consist of multiple voices collected through interviews with innovations, some or all of whom will come from MaRS centre residents themselves.

We are revisiting our original Wings of Desire concept in which a participant can either hear the voices of individuals or the harmonies and cacophony of the many depending on where they are standing.

Our installation will encourage participants to discover the meaning of the voices by moving through the circular space of the North Entrance Lobby of MaRS.

One potential arrangement of our installation in the lobby.

In the diagram above you see multiple voices coming from speakers along the edge of the circle. These voices meet in the middle creating a cacophony or confusion of voices. Nodal points (dotted lines) are points of harmony and intersection, perhaps where common themes are found in the voices of the speakers.

People entering the MaRS building may serendipitously encounter these voices as they move through the lobby. They may choose to linger and discover more of the sound nodes in the middle space or move to the edges and listen to individual voices.

Encouraging Collaboration: We may also offer a paper list of interviewees with contact information along with our artist statement.

Current Goals:
Create a sacred space in a public space
Encourage participation through discovery
Use silence, cacophony, harmony and singular voices as symbols for different states of a community
‘What is the meaning of the journey in a space?’ – We will investigate the history of the lobby and MaRS building. Why was the lobby designed this way in the current building? What other kinds of architecture share this structure. What kind of sound is made for this kind of space? i.e String Quartet (referencing David Byrne, Siobhan forwarded link)

Changes from Crit 3:
We are not using the labyrinth as a model.

Questions for Crit:
We need to refine our problem and audience. Should we be exploring the discover process in our installation or encouraging collaboration among MaRS tenants?

Work for Week 4 – Use Buddha Story as UR text with 8 sound nodes representing 8 stages of his life

Plan A, Wed June 9
Use Buddha Story as UR text with 8 sound nodes representing 8 stages of his life
Changes from Crit 3:
We are not using the labyrinth as a model.

We found an UR story that we could use as the abstract backbone for our installation. We chose the life of the Buddah. We were going to make poetic interpretative sound compositions for 8 sound nodes to correspond to 8 narrative points in this life story. We also considered how the Buddah discovered the technology of meditation, and how he created a community, Sangha, to practise this technology together.

Location: We discussed installing these 8 nodes in the MaRS centre, since the audience here is interested in innovation and community. We looked at potential locations along the main floor atrium of the building.

MaRS Atrium at night

Interactive Grammar: We were interested in the challenge of making a dramatic journey apparent from node to node using only sound. We were intending to build a feeling of dramatic rise and fall in tension when the participant traverses all the nodes in sequence. However we also wanted the nodes to work when participants encountered only one, or multiple nodes in a unintended order. We wanted participants to be able to either make up a story about what is happening, or project themselves as the story protagonist.

Form: The feedback we got from Ana was there may not be a good reason for people traversing this space to follow our suggested route and move from sound node to sound node. As well she was concerned that a linear path might be dull.

We then looked at the space considering strong visual cues that would link thematically to each particular node, and draw the curious participant to the sound node thus enticing them to make meaning from the juxtapositions. One example of a potential visual cue would be a giant pink Bohdi tree placed between the other trees beside the main floor windows. It would mark the location for the sound node when Siddhartha discovered how to become enlightened. We also realized the symbol of an apple falling on Newton’s head while sitting under a tree also has cultural resonance for innovators.

We also looked the architecture and traffic patterns of the inner lobby for problems and solutions. We noticed the flat area above the food court staircase is ‘dead’ or unoccupied, but that the open stairs to the south – which you can view from the dead space – are very active. We considered handing small speakers over the edge as a hanging garden of sound, or a fishing pond of sound replete with glittering fish and dangling fishing lines, and how we could pique the curiosity of stair climbers to make a U turn at the top of the stairs and explore the dead space if we gave them a reason, such as to figure out who is holding the fishing lines they see dangling over the edge, or to see who is controlling the sound effects they are hearing.

On Thurs and Fri all of us were involved in three separate FutureLab projects as part of Netchange week. We all noted having a clearly defined problem to solve and audience to solve it for made making decisions in a group much simpler.

David made the following notes about the correlations between the Buddah story and the discovery process of the innovator

Buddah’s eight steps:

1.Happy Childhood
2.The suffering in the world
3.The call
4.The voyage
5.The execution
6.Hard work
7.Finding the cure
8.Returning to build a community around his innovation

The Innovator’s Story:

1.Beginnings, much the same as other happy childhoods
2.Realizing the problem
3.Deciding to act on the problem
4.Leaving the nest
6.Hard work
8.Working with others to implement and move further into new discoveries.

What the two stories have in common:

The Problem: Suffering
The Call: To fix the problem
The Struggle: Learning, training, apprenticing, ideation, collaborating, inventing, executing
The Solution: The innovative tech: from meditating to the human genome, it’s all the same.

Audience: The proposed audience is innovators in the MaRS Centre.

Artistic Research: Installation environments that consider your body

Artist Ernesto Neto Wants To Get Inside Your Nose

Ernesto Neto’s new installation anthropodino opens May 14 at the Park Avenue Armory. The installation contains 1,650 lbs of spices, and will be on display through June.


People tend to think of your work in those very formal terms, like space or material. What else are you thinking about in approaching the Hayward show?

The works have a lot to do with urbanism. The world we live in is so deeply populated. Just think about the Internet. I’m also thinking about a space full of things, like a forest, or like a cell phone, or like a photograph machine — a kind of space where you have to put a lot of things together in a really small space. This is the kind of space we are living in today. Everybody is full and busy. Our time becomes so short, and we have to divide into many little spots of time for everyone we work with and live with: our family, our friends, and our business partners. I’m asking, “What can we do in this confined area?”  — Ernesto Neto

The Heart Library Project: St. Vincent’s Public Hospital, Sydney by George Khut

Eye Ear You

We realize we may have a create some kind of floating but non-functional installation to indicate to participants where the sound is. Here are some images we find inspiring. Inspirational installation images:

Jellyfish on queen st. w

An exhibition in Glasgow 2009


More to come.