Layered Landscapes: inspired by winter, embracing modern design

Vivien Li, Kristina Kamenar, and Michelle McEachern at work. Photo courtesy of

[T]hree eager interior design students from Ryerson—­ Vivien Li, Kristina Kamenar, and Michelle McEachern— embraced the winter and used it as inspiration for their installation, Layered Landscapes, as a part of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival.

“We wanted to do a ceiling installation because we thought of having it reflect with snow and winter. We wanted it in an organic shape, sort of flowing as snow or as winter,” said Li, a third-year interior design student. “We wanted it to be floating on top of anything that is beneath the surface.”

Layered Landscapes. Photo by Emma Cosgrove

Layered Landscapes. Photo by Emma Cosgrove

Upon first gaze, Li can testify that it looks like “just layers of paper angulating from the ceiling.” But, Layered Landscapes is an installation inspired by the Northern Lights using light, sound, and movement to create an atmospherically unique experience. The instillation was displayed in the window of the Coolearth Architecture Inc. from Jan. 20 to 26.

“The Northern Lights are something that is rare —something that you can’t see very often and can’t really capture. It’s like being in that moment and freezing that time and memory. [Forms of] the papers are floating, so you can’t see how they’re attached to the ceiling. Floating and still in time,” said Li.

The three decided to team up because of their shared interest in installations and the need to participate in Toronto’s design and art community, not just do school work. In October, the trio submitted their proposal and application to be a part of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival.

“We were fortunate enough to get a window installation. And they just kind of gave it to us after they looked at our proposal and thought it was interesting enough,” said Li.

However, the group didn’t really meet until the winter break, which is when they went over their concept and materials, and got in contact with their faculty advisor. A solid concept was not determined until early December after a lot of thinking, revising, and constant emails between the group and faculty advisor.

The group’s installation was created out of wire, tracing paper, and wooden frames to support the piece, directional lighting and small motors.

“The form was easy to make but the technical stuff was harder to hash out,” said Li.

“We really wanted to use some of the colors on our installation, and we did try that with the lights. But unfortunately, it was kind of a fallback because the lights weren’t strong enough. You know the reflective laser paper that you get from the Dollarama?  We had it reflect off the metallic paper and bounce off of the paper.”

The week before the installation of the artwork, the group arranged for some volunteers to assist with making paper for the piece. The actual installation of Layered Landscapes ended up taking a day.

The project was a one-off collaboration for the group, but Li says they’ve all learned a lot from each other and gained experience. It was also an opportunity to get exposure.

“As students, we have so many good ideas and we’re just learning so much,” says Li. “It’s better to not just focus on school all the time, but to participate in something bigger.”