New Circadia (adventures in mental spelunking)


Please join us for the opening of the Architecture and Design Gallery and its inaugural exhibition, New Circadia, on November 7, 2019 at 7:30pm. Enjoy performances by “Canada’s Theremin Prodigy” Clara Venice, and share your dreams (or listen to those anonymously recorded by others) via Oneiroi in the upper tier of the cave.

Architecture and Design Gallery at John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design
1 Spadina Crescent
Lower Level
Toronto, ON M5S 2J5
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New Circadia transforms the Daniels Faculty’s new 7,500-square-feet Gallery into a cave-like atmosphere – a soft utopia designed as an antidote to our technologically-infused lives.

Have our tech-infused lives caused us to forget the benefits and pleasures of losing ourselves in states of repose and reverie?

The Daniels Faculty is pleased to launch the Architecture and Design Gallery, a unique, experimental space — the only gallery of its kind in Toronto — located in the lower level of the Daniels Building at One Spadina Crescent.

Curated by Professor Richard Sommer and New York-based designers, Pillow Culture, the Gallery’s inaugural installation, New Circadia (adventures in mental spelunking), prompts participants to ask: What would happen if we disconnected from standard time and external stimuli within a dream-like space specifically designed for relaxation, reflection, and repose?

New Circadia (an approximate translation from Latin for “New Day”) has been conceived to engage the city and the University of Toronto community alike in an immersive environment — an underground, cave-like, soft utopia.


“Architecture today is inextricably bound up in the urbanization of the planet, and it needs to pay as much attention to the marking of time, as it traditionally has to the shaping of space,” says co-curator, Richard Sommer, Dean and Professor at the Daniels Faculty. “With New Circadia, we are acknowledging architecture’s complicity in an increasingly stressful and zombie-like world by presenting an antidote to the over-mechanization of everyday life and our plugged-in, 24/7 culture. Might it be time to put architecture to sleep?”

The interactive installation will be made up of three zones. Beginning at the east entrance of the Daniels Building, visitors will enter a subterranean space through a Transitory Zone or “mouth of the cave,” illuminated with an artificial skylight created via digital technology.

Here, visitors will store their belongings and choose from a variety of body wearables or “spelunking gear”.

Then, moving though a felt envelope, participants will enter the main cave space, an uncanny Dark Zone, with a large yet soft rock-like lounge-scape, animated with responsive sound and light. Oneiroi, a participatory project by architect and Assistant Professor Petros Babasikas and artist Chrissou Voulgari, will invite visitors to anonymously record their personal dreams and listen to those recorded by others. Throughout the installation, visitors will be encouraged to make use of the cave’s soft infrastructure, including its felted floors and walls, to engage in self-directed rest and meditation.

Inspired by both the 1938 Mammoth Cave Experiment (the first staging of a scientific research laboratory for studying natural human cycles of sleep and wakefulness) and the synesthetic happenings of the 1960’s and 70’s, this haptic installation will offer visitors a variety of experiences, including a series of thematic lectures, multidisciplinary performances, dialogues, film screenings, and nocturnes. New Circadia’s events and programming will be organized around six time-based themes: story time, deep time, wasting time, break time, marking time, and dream time.

“We have transformed the new Architecture and Design Gallery into a soft utopia to conjure a greater sense of geological, mythical, mechanical, and biological time, and to explore how we might nurture a more sustained interior life by incubating dream-like states of rest, reflection, and reverie,” say co-curators Natalie Fizer and Emily Stevenson of the firm Pillow Culture.

Both the space and programming of New Circadia is aimed at demonstrating that idling, whether by sleeping, dreaming, napping, or meditating, is not lost, unproductive time, but rather an essential state of mind and body, connected to experiences vital to our survival and evolution.

The Architecture and Design Gallery is wheelchair accessible, gallery attendant can provide assistant for those who require it.

Exhibition support is provided through the Lorne M. Gertner Fund.

For more information, visit the Daniels Faculty’s website.

Media Contact:
Elyse Clinning
Account Manager, Kriss Communications