A 500 Square-foot Meeting Room Inside A Nest

The roof of the Atlantic Avenue Art Block building on the south side of 9th Avenue S.E. in Inglewood curves like the crest of a wave. Just beneath the crest, a large-scale spherical sculpture is visible inside the window. 

Known as “the Nest,” the sculpture is actually a distinctive meeting space within the Esker Foundation, the non-commercial art gallery that occupies the building’s top floor.

Local philanthropists Jim and Susan Hill opened the Esker Foundation in June 2012. The word “esker” (familiar to geology students) refers to the natural formation of serpentine riverbeds created by streams running beneath glacial ice. The idea to name the gallery Esker came from the Hills’ son, Rob Hill, who saw thematic parallels to concepts of renewal, guidance and the continuum of ideas.“We were able to build our own mandate, which was about being this incubation space for ideas and art,” says assistant curator Shauna Thompson. “We really wanted to present the gallery in a way that brought the community in.” 

That vision included building a gathering space for creative people that is, in itself, a work of art. A collaboration between Jim Hill and Kasian Architects, the gargantuan steel ball hangs at the east end of the mezzanine level that runs across the gallery’s main atrium. Reminiscent of the bits of paper woven into a bird’s nest, the sculpture is constructed of powder-coated, stainless steel beams that are bent to create a sphere filled with light. 

The Nest was brought to life by Heavy Industries, a Calgary-based company of sculptors specializing in 3D imaging. The steel beams were brought up to the fourth floor and welded together in the middle of the gallery. The whole process took the sculptors six months to complete.

The sculpture encompasses a meeting space of approximately 500 square feet, overlooking the Bow River. The entrance is accessed via a glass staircase. “We wanted the gallery itself to be a safe place for artists to try things — to try things and maybe even fail,” says Thompson. 

“Being a non-commercial gallery that’s privately funded, there’s a lot of leeway to experiment and be creative. The Nest is designed with that idea in mind. It’s a sheltered space where people can come together and experience something.” 

For information on Esker Foundation exhibits, visit eskerfoundation.com.

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