Work of Art: The Fold by Adad Hannah

These 130-foot-long pleated walls were welded in a sequence of folds.

Photograph courtesy of Brad Hays.

Title: The Fold, 2016
Artist: Adad Hannah
Medium: Weatherizing steel.
Size: 12.8-feet high by 130-feet long by 5.6-feet wide (measurements include the span of the gap).
Location: Quarry Park Recreation Facility, 108 Quarry Park Rd. S.E.
Notes: Commissioned by the City of Calgary Public Art Program via an open international call. Fabricated by George A. Wright & Son (special thanks to Paul Dykstra). The Fold was one of 10 works acknowledged in the 2017 Public Art Year in Review at the 2017 Creative City Summit in Halifax, N.S.


Two pleated walls flank the pedestrian path that crosses the plaza of Quarry Park Recreation Centre. On each side, 12 upright sheets of rust-coloured steel are welded in pairs in a sequence of folds. They mirror each other, their rims descending from monumental stature at the outer edges to playhouse height, defining crisp, diagonal zigzags.

From a distance, the broad gesture of the form suggests the cross-section of a wide valley, an abstraction of the Bow River landscape, perhaps. Up close, the screens conjure urban living spaces within the folds. Like a giant accordion pop-up book, the sculpture sets the scene for a narrative, from childhood play to adult rest. Geometric perforations and minimal add-ons propose interior and exterior architecture.

The concept of “affordance,” coined by perceptual psychologist James J. Gibson, helps to understand how the sculpture works on us. Our perception of the material, form and scale provide clues as to how we might make use of the site: walk through a doorway, drop mail through a slot, put books on a shelf, place your face within the frame of a circle, sit on a step. Even if you don’t actually touch the sculpture — its surface is remarkably smooth, durable and oxidizing gently — it has the power to elicit the imagination and memory of activities.

The Fold is an unusual mash-up. The formal modernist aesthetic of an artist like Richard Serra, famous for monumental Corten steel sculptures, meets utilitarian expression and the social imperative for art advocated by Russian Constructivist Aleksander Rodchenko. The outcome is friendly.

Artist Adad Hannah is recognized internationally for his contemporary approach to an early form of entertainment, the tableau vivant. In the last two years, Hannah has shown such projects at Glenbow and the Founders’ Gallery at the Military Museums.

In a recent interview, Hannah, who is based in Montreal and Vancouver, notes that his public art projects don’t usually look like his gallery and museum work. His comment is food for thought about how community input plays out in some public projects.

The process for developing this piece included neighbourhood workshops to gather ideas about favourite shapes and spaces that they would enjoy being in and that mirrored spaces they knew, however, it is Hannah’s strength as an artist that holds the work together. Aspects of his artistic practice apparent in this sculpture are the strong unifying form and thoughtful staging that calls attention to small human gestures. Over the life of the sculpture he hopes that the children will remember their part in the workshops as they grow up with the Centre as an important place in their daily lives.

Photograph courtesy of Brad Hays.

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This article appears in the November 2018 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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