BY: Kelsey Adams
A vivid pattern-blocked party awaits passersby at 544 King Street West in Toronto. The site of Allied and Westbank’s latest collaboration is cloaked in hoarding designed by renowned artist and author Douglas Coupland. The piece, titled Let’s Happy, seems at first like a frenzy of different colours and shapes; but they soon reveal themselves to loosely resemble emojis.
Coupland wanted his piece to feel like an invitation. While hoarding is used to create a facade for the nitty-gritty work happening behind the scenes, Let’s Happy is designed to welcome people into the party. “I’m an optimist, and the mural, for me, is like the opposite of a mask,” he shares. “It’s saying ‘Hello, come on in,’ and I think in this moment we can all use a bit of that.”
Coupland’s work often explores internet trends and behaviours, including interactive elements that bring the public into the conversation. The QR code in the corner of the mural takes the viewer to a website that tracks the 2,000 most frequently used emojis on Twitter, in real time.
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels reached out to Coupland to create art for his latest development. The King Toronto project, designed by Ingels, is a melding of downtown high-rise life with the utopia of nature. “It goes above and beyond what people are expecting,” says Coupland.
Coupland was invited to turn the 2,400-square-foot presentation centre across the street from the building site into a gallery space. The mix of items—from sculptures to consumer objects—was sourced from his own home and from Toronto’s Daniel Faria Gallery.
“It definitely doesn’t feel like the Royal Ontario Museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art, but it’s a very cozy and intimate experience,” says Coupland. Indeed. It’s like stepping inside his mind—getting a rare look at his inner world. While the construction rages on across the street, the gallery will be open to the public to inspire them to imagine new ways of living—inviting them to get lost and stay awhile.