Dec 6, 2021
Illuminated parasols encourage a community to reconnect

Umbrella or mushroom? A new, immersive art installation in downtown Vancouver has visitors guessing the former during the day and the latter after sunset. Created by local art-and-design studio Tangible, Parasol consists of a set of five 9-ft-tall umbrellalike structures that take on new life at night, evoking illuminated mushrooms as LEDs highlight their metal fins with vibrant light patterns.

Located outside the Bentall Centre in the heart of the city’s central business district, the art piece is part of an effort to revitalize the downtown landmark and create a renewed sense of place on its updated patio. Fusing nature and lighting design, each structure contains 40 fins to mimic the underbelly of a mushroom, half of which hold controllable LED lights with acrylic diffusers. During the day, Parasol provides typical umbrella-like shade, but at night, the 20 strips of LEDs (Lumileds) create rich hues of light running the length of each fin.

By igniting onlookers’ sense of wonder and curiosity, the designers hope the artwork will also encourage people to safely reconnect with one another and their environment after a period of disconnect. “I have always wanted to contribute to how we live in this city,” says Alex Beim, Tangible’s founder and lead artist. “We’re so used to being limited to experiencing the world through small screens like phones and computers that sometimes you feel something real and it is kind of mind-blowing. If we had a lot of elements like these in the city people would be more awake, aware and connected than we are right now.”