Winning Installation of Benchmark 2023 Unveiled in Victoria Beach, Manitoba

The winning installation of Benchmark 2023, by Thom Fougere, was recently unveiled in Victoria Beach, Manitoba.

Image credit: Thom Fougere

The winning installation of Benchmark 2023, called “Four Nesting Loops” by Thom Fougere of Montreal, Quebec, was recently unveiled in Victoria Beach, Manitoba.

The installation contains four aluminum seating loops in multiple sizes which are placed adjacent to a secluded Victoria Beach forest trail. This bench creates a serene space and invites visitors to connect with nature. The aluminum surface, which is subdued and sand-blasted, aims to capture the light through the surrounding forest canopy and connects the installation and its natural surroundings.

In his early career, Fougere drove the design of an international furniture manufacturer and established his own label. In 2010, he was appointed creative director of Canadian design house EQ3. Fougere crafted various product collections for the company and led the brand through a transformative global re-positioning which included designing EQ3’s New York flagship building.

This project was chosen as part of Benchmark, the international design competition organized by Storefront Manitoba and the Winnipeg Trails Association.

Victoria Beach was the chosen as the site for the 2023 edition to pay a tribute to the late David Penner, the founder and former Executive Director of Storefront Manitoba, who spent various summers there at the cottage with family and friends.

Image credit: Thom Fougere

“It is an honour to be selected to design this installation. I’m deeply interested in our connection to nature and how to elevate life’s subtleties, which nature grants us but often goes unnoticed. The design of this installation aims to do just that, offering visitors the opportunity to connect with their surroundings and unplug in a secluded natural environment while using materials efficiently. A rather pragmatic, Prairie-minded approach, one I’m sure was shared by the late David Penner, for whom this bench will serve as a memorial,” said Thom Fougere.

A celebration took place on September 9, 2023, for the installation of the design. The project is located along the 8th to McCawley Trail, on the north edge of the Victoria Beach Golf Course.

The 1.3 km long trail is located on Treaty 1 land and is part of the Victoria Beach Trans Canada Trail and the Borders to Beaches Trail.

“This project is evocative and transcendent, like the forest itself. Its formal and spatial disposition and material simplicity, initially perceived as foreign objects in nature, are in fact universally familiar and engaging and invite ‘reflection and contemplation’ as its author suggests. The judicious placement of the 4 seating rings adjacent to the path and into the forest provides a sense of order and place,” said Eduard Epp, Benchmark jury member.

“The concentrically disposed rings signal growth and symbolically reference the passage of time echoed concretely by shadows cast from a tree within one or more of the rings. Similarly, David’s home and cottage incorporate wooden pathways that encircle trees along their path. The honed steel seating surfaces gather and reflect light and shade or leaves and snow as the seasons pass, making evident the natural cycles of growth, decay and renewal.”

“Four Nesting Loops” is the eighth installation completed as part of the Benchmark project with the support of several organizations which include Trails Manitoba and the Trans Canada Trail.