Waves of holiday light

Dal students' shine in the Parade of Lights

- November 20, 2013

Dal students make their way down the parade route. (Ali Seglins photo)
Dal students make their way down the parade route. (Ali Seglins photo)

Donned in familiar white painter suits, Dal students hit the streets of Halifax for another year of whimsy at the Chronicle Herald Parade of Lights this past Saturday.

A swarm of students on I Heart Bikes bicycles weaved in and out of the two large, moving spiralling light pieces, becoming a large blur of light moving down the street. They were followed by the Dalhousie Tiger, dancing to electronic music, and a giant 15-foot light wheel pushed down the street by the students.

Ali Seglins photo

“We want it to be a bit of a circus,” said Ian Sawatzky, Architecture student and organizer of the float construction, who spoke with Dal News in advance of the parade. “It’s about interacting with the crowd and having some fun.”

The spiralling lights were powered by large black trailers, pulled by the student cyclists. “We’re trying to use the dynamic movement and kinetic energy of the parade to our advantage,” said Sawatzky. “We wanted to make something that moves.”

Fun and fantastical

Inspired by Halifax’s position as a coastal city, the human-powered float attempted to link light to movement in waves. With every movement of the bike’s pedals, the large spiral of bright, white lights spun around.

“We want an illusion effect. In the dark, we want it to look like it’s floating — just a wave of light behind the bike.”

Ali Seglins photo

The float follows several years of successful entires that involve collaboration between students in Architecture and Engineering, including last year’s glowing bike canopies. “On a bike you have that movement to weave in and out of the crowd,” says Sawatzky. “It’s the best way to interact with people and especially the children.”

That said, Sawatzky doesn’t necessarily see it as an activist float in terms of promoting cycling.

“We’re not telling people what to do or how to live, but we’re out there doing it ourselves having fun on the bikes and hopefully showing people that.”

Creativity outside the classroom

Sawatzky and fellow Architecture students Adam Krop, Damon Hayes Couture, Marta Valente and Adi Gerrits took charge of organizing volunteers and turning the imagined design into a reality.

Planning began in mid-September with several “charrettes,” open to all students. At these think tank-style design meetings, Architecture students started to bring the wave and movement concept to life with the float design and structural planning. The experience was an opportunity to test the skills they learn in the classroom in an imaginative way.

Damon Hayes Couture photo

Constructed out of recycled materials and built in the Architecture building woodshop, students volunteered their time and ingenuity. “Building is more like a circus than anything else,” laughs Sawatzky. “It’s more about having fun and seeing what crazy thing we can make.”

Damon Hayes Couture photo

Imagining the fantastical should not be restricted to once a year, however. Sawatzky encourages others to get involved in creative design. “This kind of stuff is out there — arts grants and other supports at a more professional level — yet people get sucked into this idea that architecture or design has to be a corporate world of developers,” he says.

“These creative opportunities exist and people really should take advantage of them.”

Damon Hayes Couture photo.


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