RAIC Awards – Allied Arts Award
Throughout 10 years of practice, Omer Arbel has explored the intimate relationship between light and space. His work continues to uncover new areas of investigation and possibility, using the physical process of making as a fundamental departure point for cross-disciplinary design.
Arbel has been active in the traditionally defined fields of building design, industrial design, craft, and material research since 2000, when he graduated from the University of Waterloo. After apprenticeships at Miralles Tagliabue, Patkau Architects, and Busby + Associates Architects, in 2005 he founded his eponymous Vancouver design practice, Omer Arbel Office (OAO).
At OAO, Arbel and his team operate within constantly oscillating parameters of scale, site, socioeconomics, phenomenological experiment, power relationships, environmental imperative and allegorical relevance, with the goal of creating extraordinary projects. The firm’s clients include private individuals, manufacturing companies, fine craft-focused ateliers, property developers, and diverse institutions.
The design and manufacturing company, Bocci, was also founded in 2005 under Arbel’s creative directorship. The Vancouver-based firm launched with one product, a cast-glass lighting piece known as 14. Ten years later, Bocci has a growing portfolio of contemporary design rang-ing from light installations through to furniture and electrical sockets. All Bocci designs are developed, engineered and fabricated in house through an infrastructure calibrated to provide full control over technique, quality and scale. While the context of the work is international, the manufacturing is decidedly local.
Over the last decade, Arbel has continually explored new directions in lighting design by creating custom installations in architecturally unique sites worldwide. These site-specific installations consider the role of lighting and its relationship to space. By allowing the viewer’s imagi-nation to occupy architectural volumes that the body cannot, the lighting inflects the spaces and affects how they are inhabited.
Arbel’s cross-disciplinary work both actively and organically pursues design synergies. His experiments in the fields of lighting and building design enrich his knowledge of each individual discipline, while promoting a deeper material understanding that traverses conventional borders. Through OAO and Bocci, Arbel embraces instances of contingency—creating two process-driven practices that cultivate, and even instigate, moments of material surprise, rather than imposing preconceived conceptual or formal meaning upon the work.
Arbel has taught and lectured at the University of British Columbia School of Architecture, Parsons The New School for Design, the University of Manitoba, and the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Salone Internazionale del Mobile, Spazio Rossana Orlandi and Mallet Antiques, among others.
Work from Bocci and OAO has been featured in a wide range of publications including Azure, Objekt, Domus, Wallpaper, Dwell, Frame, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph and Architectural Record. Upcoming projects include set design for a Ballet BC world premiere inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a permanent light installation at Canada House in London, a permanent public light installation in Vancouver’s downtown core, and a solo exhibition at Vancouver’s Monte Clark Gallery.
His work presented us with an artful play in perspective, object and space. 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.