Omer Arbel receives 2015 RAIC Allied Arts Medal

A Vancouver industrial designer whose artistic lighting designs illuminate buildings worldwide will receive the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s (RAIC) Allied Arts Medal for 2015.

Omer Arbel is the principal of Omer Arbel Office, which produces designs for buildings, objects, furniture, lighting and electrical accessories. He is also cofounder and creative director of Bocci, a design and manufacturing firm whose portfolio ranges from light installations to furniture and electrical sockets.

The RAIC bestows the Allied Arts Medal every two years. The award honours a Canadian artist or designer for outstanding achievement for artwork created to be integrated with architecture. Any medium allied to architecture is eligible, including murals, sculpture, glass, fabric, lighting, furniture, water, sound, site-specific installation, video, digital, and industrial and landscape design.

Arbel’s submission focused on lighting installations, including at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. In 2013, an installation, known as 28.280 filled the 30-metre vertical space of the museum’s grand entrance and ceramics room with a cascade of 280 glass 28 series pendants.

His work “presented us with an artful play in perspective, object and space,” said the three-member jury. “Breathtaking and delightful in its simplicity, the Victoria and Albert installation effects a surprising transformation of the space and surface of the architecture, of up and down, dark and light.”

Arbel will receive the award at the RAIC Festival of Architecture which takes place in Calgary from June 3 to 6, 2015 in collaboration with the Alberta Association of Architects.

“The most sublime experiences in architecture exist when there is a blending of buildings and art,” said RAIC President Sam Oboh, FRAIC. “Arbel’s work has consistently demonstrated an aptitude for engaging the allied arts to play with lighting, rethink humble materials, and apply traditional construction techniques to great dramatic effect.”

Arbel graduated from the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in 2000. After apprenticeships with Miralles Tagliabue in Spain, and Patkau Architects and Busby + Associates Architects in Vancouver, he founded his practice in 2005. Bocci also launched in 2005. Over the past decade, Arbel has continually explored new directions in lighting design.

“I am so honoured to be the recipient of this award, with past laureates including legends such as Cornelia Oberlander, Gordon Smith and B.C. Binning,” he said. “I think the line between architecture and its allied arts is blurring, and as such, this award is perhaps emblematic of a larger socio-historic evolution in the profession.”

Arbel’s accolades include several Red Dot and iF awards, a Yellow Pencil Yearbook Entry, the Ron Thom Early Design Achievement, and the commission to design the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Medals.

The jury was comprised of: Peter Sampson, MRAIC, principal of Peter Sampson Architecture Studio in Winnipeg; Stephen Fai, MRAIC, director of the Carleton Immersive Media Studio at Carleton University in Ottawa and Associate Professor at Carleton’s school of architecture and urbanism; and Meg Graham, FRAIC, principal of superkül, a Toronto architecture firm.

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