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Courtesy of Ontario Place


Ontario Place in Toronto is now presenting “Over Floe,” a climate change themed sculpture installation that will float in the inner lagoon from spring until fall, 2021. The installation is an initiative of ArtWorxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021-22.

John Notten, the Toronto-based artist and educator who produced the art, reached out to construction firm EllisDon last year to see if it could provide some waste construction material for one of his projects. The company, which is actively working to reduce its impact on the environment and reduce carbon emissions, provided materials from a recent demolition from the Grenadier Square project site in Toronto. [1]

While not out of place in many more northern parts of the planet, the idea of five icebergs floating into Toronto at Ontario Place is, to say the least, unusual. And yet, here they are, gently floating in an urban setting, refusing to melt under a hot Toronto sun. As you will discover, these are more than just traditional icebergs.

The puzzle of these strange geometric forms is revealed only when experienced from different perspectives. Approaching from one direction, they are simply icebergs. However, each of the five structures reveals a contrary façade: a suburban house, a school, a bank, a factory, and a truck.

Over Floe is made almost entirely of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), commonly known as Styrofoam. Like icebergs, EPS is 95% air, a quality that makes both very buoyant. And both, of course, are typically white in colour. However, the similarities between the two end there.

Styrofoam is an ironic material choice: perhaps the least likely candidate with which to create a chunk of floating ice. Though it may be endlessly useful in packaging and building practices, EPS contributes an enormous amount of waste to our landfills every year, filling up to 30% of landfill space around the world. Because EPS is not biodegradable, it remains buried without decomposition for a very long time. And because it is extremely lightweight, EPS often breaks down and finds its way into the ocean where it represents a major source of harmful pollution.

Using a material so often associated with harm to the environment to offer an environmental warning had to be done with considerable thought and consultation. Rest assured, much care was put into ensuring that Over Floe is safe for the local environment and wildlife in and around Lake Ontario. Like a canoe, it has a durable epoxy coating eliminating any risk to the area in which it floats. Additionally, all of the EPS material for this project was salvaged from a Toronto demolition site and generously donated to the artist by EllisDon Construction eliminating a large quantity of potentially harmful waste that would have otherwise been buried in a landfill. Once the project is complete the EPS will be recycled and repurposed at a specialized facility.

And so, Over Floe offers an opportunity for the viewer to consider connections between this provocative material, the image of floating icebergs, and those of half-submerged iconic institutions. [2]


[1]       Vitello, Connie. “Art Installation Depicts the Consequences of Climate Change.” The Environment Journal, June 18, 2021. https://environmentjournal.ca/art-installation-depicts-the-consequences-of-climate-change/.

[2]     “Over Floe.” Ontario Place, July 29, 2021. https://ontarioplace.com/en/whats-on/over-floe/.

Additional information:

“Ellisdon Donates Construction Materials to Toronto Artist for over Floe Project.” EllisDon. Accessed August 6, 2021. https://www.ellisdon.com/news/ellisdon-donates-construction-materials-to-toronto-artist-for-over-floe-project/.


“John Notten.” johnnotten.com. Accessed August 6, 2021. http://johnnotten.com/.


Over Floe with John Notten. YouTube. YouTube, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XY9iWtjwMA.


Xinhua. “Art Project OVER Floe Illustrates Harm of Human-Caused Global Warming.” Global Times. Accessed August 6, 2021. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202106/1226378.shtml.


Project Title: Over Floe
Artists:  John Notten
Year: 2021 (Spring to Fall)

Place: Toronto, Ontario

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