Prototypa – IIDEX Toronto

Castor Design’s Creative Director Brian Richer gave a talk at the Prototypa installation at IIDEX Toronto, presented by Form Us With Love and Shaw Contract. The conversation, moderated by Lia Forslund, focused on prototyping in the design process and iterating ideas.

Two to the power of Seventy Four Million Two Hundred and Seven Thousand Two Hundred Eighty One minus One

M74207281 is the largest known prime number. Represented in scientific notation, the number is 2^74207281-1. Written out, the number is “two to the power of seventy-four million, two hundred seven thousand, two hundred eighty-one, minus one.” Found in January 2016 by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, it is 22.3 million digits long.

The Two to the power of Seventy Four Million Two Hundred and Seven Thousand Two Hundred Eighty One minus One books are part of Castor Design’s continued exploration of scientific and mathematical principles; presenting universal truths in a simple, elegant way. Past projects with Castor’s Science and Humanities division have included an electron accelerator, a particle cloud chamber, and lighting projects using the wireless transfer of electricity. Brian Richer of Castor Design conceived of the books, which were designed with Alex Durlak of Perish Publishing. The books are part of a series that also includes a 50’ long poster at 2 pt font, t-shirts with the book’s title, and an Instagram feed @M74207281Prime posting 4900 digits of the number each day, complete in 2030.

A prime number is a natural number that has no positive divisor other than 1 and its itself, e.g. 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. They play an important role in pure mathematics and its applications. Though we have spent centuries working with prime numbers, their true nature and distribution remain a mystery. Based on Euclid’s postulate using the sequence of known prime numbers as building blocks for the larger primes that follow, we know that there are an infinite number of primes. However, they strangely occur less frequently as they get larger. German mathematician Bernhard Riemann observed that the frequency of prime numbers is very closely related to the behaviour of an elaborate function called the Riemann Zeta function: The Riemann hypothesis asserts that all solutions of the equation lie on a certain vertical straight line. A proof that would explain the distribution of prime numbers is one of the last great unsolved mathematics puzzles.

Each of the volumes of 2^74207281-1 is over 1300 pages long for a combined total of 3982 pages of the number’s digits. Despite the apparent randomness of prime numbers, the digits have significance whether we recognize the numbers as prime or not. G.H. Hardy wrote, “317 is a prime number not because we think so, or because our minds are shaped in one way or another but because it is so, because mathematical reality is built that way.”

Like the books in Borges’ Library of Babel whose seemingly random letters and punctuation served as building blocks for the basis of language and the universe, the digits within 2^74207281-1 reveal the universe’s mathematical structure. Everything in the universe, including humanity, is part of this structure. All matter is made of particles which have properties of charge and spin; these properties are essentially mathematical. Notwithstanding their apparent simplicity and fundamental character, prime numbers remain one of the most mysterious objects studied by mathematicians. The impossible task of the series is to present the number in such a way that it may reveal some insight into the nature of prime numbers.

Book Details
274207281-1 is published by Perish Publishing, Toronto in 2017. It is printed in a limited edition of ten, two artist’s copies and one display copy. This book is designed by Alex Durlak of Perish Publishing and Brian Richer of Castor Design. It was edited and set into type at Standard Form, then printed by Copywell and bound by Anstey Bindery in Toronto. Each edition is held by a honed Carrara marble bookend with a black reflective face.

The book is 7” by 10.5”, a ratio that follows the classic harmonic 2 : 3 proportions. The margin proportions follow the common medieval structure of 2 : 3 : 4 : 6. The cases are wrapped in white book cloth and the binding features black edge colouring, black
headbands and black endpapers. The covers and spine are printed on a letterpress in black and the colophon is printed on a letterpress in metallic silver on the endpapers. The inside pages were printed on a web inkjet press in black on Bible paper.

The titling face is Bauer Bodoni by Heinrich Jost for the Bauer Foundry in 1926 and is based upon a serif cut by Giambattista Bodoni in 1798. The body face is Figgins Sans by Nick Shinn for Shinntype and is based upon a series of sans serifs cut by the V. & J. Figgins foundry in 1836. The paper is Ethos Uncoated Inkjet, made at the Appleton Coated mill in Combined Locks, Wisconsin.

“Boys Don’t Scry” Black Mirror

In 1874, Torontonians Matthew Evans & Henry Woodward patented their design for the incandescent light bulb before selling the patent to Thomas Edison, who went on to produce and popularize their design. As part of a series of exhibitions commissioned by Cadillac for Canada 150, our Black Mirror installation at Union Station in Toronto is an opportunity for self-reflection, drawing inference from Canadian lighting innovation, and is our take on the power of light.

The Black Mirror is a tinted reflective dot in the centre of a recessed white area. Behind the mirror are twelve custom-built 100W LEDs arranged radially, spreading the light outward in each direction and softened by a sheet of scrim in between. These super bright LEDs have a combined output of 168,000 lumens. For comparison, daylight is 98,000 lumens. Staring into a black reflective surface with a glow behind it, the Black Mirror installation calls to mind our use of cell phones. Although the screen is ubiquitous today, black-tinted mirrors have long been used for their ability both reflect and abstract what’s before them. We’ve taken this idea and multiplied it in scale.

Landscape painters often used black mirrors as a tool to abstract the subject reflected in them by reducing a scene’s colour and tonal range. The occult technique of scrying works the same way. Scrying involves peering into an object for inward reflection, or to receive a message or prophecy. To scry, look deep into the mirror without picking a spot to focus on. Between the brightness of the light and the tint in the mirror, it eventually becomes hard to discern figures. You may notice a small, cloudy glow in the centre of the mirror.

Photos by Peter Andrew Lusztyk (@PeterAndrewLusztyk), Joshua Telfer (@JoshuaTelfer), and Ryan Tacay (@Phraction).

Captive Exhibition

The Captive (or ‘unfinished’) figures of Michelangelo are the primary inspiration for the series by Brian Richer. Richer, the Creative Director at Castor Design is also a trained stone carver. He has worked on many architecturally significant buildings in North America, and has explored captives for years.

The Captive sculptures are simple Platonic forms, hand-carved with a mallet and chisel – no power tools were used in their carving. Unlike most sculptors—who built a model and then marked up their block of marble to know where to carve—Michelangelo always worked freehand. He saw the sculptor’s job was to reveal the work that already existed within the stone. In these figures one can still see the grooves from the chisel, the process of the work, revealing the hand of the sculptor.

The finished collection is one that presents simple classic forms: a stool, side table, and a bowl emerging from rough blocks of Indiana Limestone partially consumed by the natural material. The result is both recognizable and venerable at once.

“Liberace x Flavin” – AZ Awards 2016

The “Liberace x Flavin” installation is a music and light performance for Azure Magazine’s 2016 AZ Awards. Hundreds of fluorescent tubes between six and ten feet tall are set up around a grand piano, lit wirelessly through induction in the same vein as a Tesla coil. The light sculpture is sound-sensitive; its mass of fluorescent tubes activate based on a concert pianist’s performance. Each note adjusts the brightness of the sculpture’s bulbs.

Pianist: Amy Seulky Lee.
Photography: Peter Lusztyk.
Videography: Peter Lusztyk, Chris Clifford.

Particle Accelerator

​“Nature Abhors a Vacuum”

Despite our growing familiarity with particle accelerators like CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, for most of us the idea of a particle accelerator is still abstract. Castor Design have produced their take on the particle accelerator in an effort to make the science behind the concept more approachable.

The Castor Design particle accelerator is based on research by physicist JJ Thomson at Cambridge in 1897. Thomson is credited with discovering the electron while passing a cathode ray between two electrodes in a glass vacuum tube. Castor’s particle accelerator operates in the same way.

With consideration given to the accelerator’s design, its hand-blown glass tube with machined electrodes is displayed on top of a black marble base with an overhanging shade. Its transformer and vacuum are presented alongside, housed in custom component boxes.

When electrical current is activated and a enough of a vacuum has been formed within the tube in order for electrons to travel without striking a molecule of gas, low­-mass particles accelerate to 30% of the speed of light, which strike other atoms and give off light as they settle.

The arced plasma light quickly stabilizes and “flows” in a straight line across the centre of the tube. As gas molecules undergo more collisions, emission wavelengths appear separated out into plasma bands, demonstrating the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. More columns indicate that the electrons’ energy in a given state is less defined. When the vacuum dissipates, the plasma reaches its extinction point and scatters.

CU Exhibition

CU is part of Toronto Design Week and is an exploration into the properties of copper. The show is part of a larger event put on by Endless City and is located at 1161 Dundas St. W. Toronto. Programming ranges from talks on the state of design infrastructure in Canada, video installations, an OCAD student competition, and a dinner with edible copper on the menu.

Copper has been in use for 10,000 years, yet over 97% of the mineral mined had already been extracted from the earth by 1910; as such, any new use of copper in product, art, architecture and industry has been the result of perpetual recycling. The metal has become an overused material in design over the past few years, a trend that continues to gain momentum. The CU exhibition takes a different approach. Through a process called electroforming, Castor has utilized old pieces of copper pipe and dissolved them in order to grow metal onto organic, non-metallic materials in a charged bath. The work is based in science as much as in design, using Faraday’s Law (the relationship between the weight, electrical current, and time) to create something entirely new. The process of electroplating gives each piece a unique texture and a painterly quality; dendritic crystallization is controlled through change in electrical current. Alongside scientific processes, Castor used various forms of manufacturing – from glass blowing, stone carving, 3D printing, and laser cutting. Science is cool.

The Room at Hudson’s Bay

Castor Design were part of the Hudson Bay Company‘s installation for the Spring 2016 display at The Room, a fashion window display operating in Toronto since 1937. Six coloured gels were applied to over 115 florescent bulbs, which were used to create the sculptures, lit through induction.

Marble Slabs

Materials: Carrera Marble, Oak
Hand-carved letters in marble.

Pi is Exactly 3
Historically there have been numerous attempts to square a circle, including an attempt in 1894 to pass legislation in the United States that would definitively and erroneously signify Pi as exactly 3.

Schrödinger’s Cat is Dead
Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. The scenario presents a cat which may be simultaneously both alive and dead, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.

Hail Double Knob Children of Mars
In an attempt to share his controversial findings with colleagues while shielding them from the authorities, Galileo developed a code of anagrams. This was sent to Kepler in confidence, unfortunately Kepler was unable to decode the message correctly and created this garbled text.

Candy Table for “Dinner by Design” – TODO 2015

Castor Design have made a dining table and a pair of benches out of hard candy. Two inches thick, the treatment resembles a glass-top dining table. The set was made during the 2015 Toronto Design Offsite week for the Dinner by Design charity event hosted by GE Monogram and the Toronto Design Exchange, the proceeds going toward Toronto’s Casey House.

Responding to the theme of the event, at the intersection of dinner and design is an edible table. Following this line of logic, Castor Design made the table top out of hard candy, pouring a 150°C/300°F mixture of sugar, water, syrup, and colouring into a mould on top of an 8’ x 3’ powder-coated steel frame. The hard candy is meant to be used, so after pouring it is left to cool and solidify and then finished with a lacquer spray. Prior to its finishing the table would be edible, having a maple flavour.

The dining set was made at Parts & Labour’s catering kitchen where Castor Design’s principals Brian Richer and Kei Ng are part owners. The table was formed in three separate 60L pours, each with a slightly different shade of red, which results in a marbled texture in the candy. Lit from underneath, the table has molten look that is amplified by the back bench’s slow decline to the floor. Glass tableware is set up to catch the light coming through the table.

The table is installed at the Design Exchange from January 19-25th 2015.

For those interested in making a set at home, the recipe is as follows:

120kg sugar
60kg water
30kg syrup
Food colouring as desired

Bench (x1)
40kg sugar
20kg water
10kg syrup
Food colouring as desired

White Room for “DX Rise Up”

For their “Rise Up” annual fundraiser gala, Castor wrapped a 3,000 square foot room at the Design Exchange and the furniture inside in heat-shrink wrap designed to protect boats during the winter.

Calcium Oxide

The four geometric sculptures, hand carved out of limestone, are changed on a molecular level. This is due to the thermal decomposition of limestone (CaCO3) in a lime kiln. What appear as objects slowly decomposing is accomplished by heating the material to above 825 °C, a process called calcination. This process drives off the carbon dioxide (CO2); leaving quicklime. The quicklime (CaO) is not stable and, when cooled, will spontaneously react with CO2 from the air until, after enough time, it will be completely converted back to calcium carbonate unless slaked with water to set as lime plaster or lime mortar. This process is called the Lime Cycle. Further exploration of this series converting hand carved tracery window from St. Michael’s Cathedral into calcium oxide and making plaster combined with finely grounded marble dust mixed with water used as a medium to paint. By changing the forms completely from the original pieces of work into flat two dimensional wall pieces.

Captive Munny for “This Is Not A Toy” Exhibition

Design Exchange (Toronto)
Materials: Carrera Marble

This was part of a show called This is Not a Toy ­ co-curated by Pharrell Williams. A number of artist were given Munny Dolls and asked to do an intervention. The inspiration for this Munny was Michelangelos captives. The Munny was carved in Carrera marble, using hand tools and a pointing machine;­ a tool for duplicating models.

Marble with Fluorescent Tube (Black Marble)

A closer examination of the sculpture reveals that the bulb is emitting light although the pins through which a fluorescent bulb normally receives current remain unconnected, and the tube appears to be unpowered. This effect is achieved through the wireless transmission of electricity. The marble base houses a circuit that safely stores an electric current within a magnetic field, which is then transferred into the fluorescent bulb. While being displayed, the bulb sits in a channel carved into the sculptures marble base. It will continue to emit light if lifted several inches away.

Black Metal Collection at Klaus by Nienkamper

Castor’s Black Metal Collection is inspired by the line from Spinal Tap “There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.” Nigel Tufnel was commenting on their new black record cover and clearly making a statement about design in general- black is absolute. See an article featuring the entire collection on Design-Milk and shop at the Castor Online store.

In 2013, Castor exhibited its Black Metal Collection at Toronto furniture and lighting retailer Klaus. The Induction Tube Light, the Conic Section Light, the Black Mirrors, and the Tank Bowls were all on display in-store and available for purchase.

Marble with Fluorescent Tube (Large)

A closer examination of the sculpture reveals that the bulb is emitting light although the pins through which a fluorescent bulb normally receives current remain unconnected, and the tube appears to be unpowered. This effect is achieved through the wireless transmission of electricity. The marble base houses a circuit that safely stores an electric current within a magnetic field, which is then transferred into the fluorescent bulb. While being displayed, the bulb sits in a channel carved into the sculptures marble base. It will continue to emit light if lifted several inches away.

Crystal Chandelier – TIFF 2012

TIFF Bell Lightbox (Toronto)
Materials : Brass Chandeliers, copper sulphate, plaster

Each chandelier was wrapped in plaster gauze and submerged in copper sulphate until crystals formed. An accompanying video was also made showing the formation of crystals under a microscope.

NAFTA: 3 Countries/ 2 Borders – San Diego Art Fair 2011

Castor was asked to participate in San Diego Art fair as part of the NAFTA 3 Countries/2 Borders Show. Castor deconstructed products and packed them in bubble packaging. One was called Canadian Clichés- with stubby beer bottle, hockey trophy, and a beaver gnawed log.

Power Ball 2011

Castor was asked to participate in the Power Plant’s annual fundraiser. Two thousand feet of electroluminescent (EL) wire was strung around the room. Artist Jeremy Jansen showed his video on a bank of television screens.

Pope Joan Chair – Toronto IDS 2011

Pope Joan is a legendary female Pope who supposedly reigned for a few years some time thought to be between 853–855 AD. The story first appeared in the writings of 13th-century chroniclers, and subsequently spread through Europe. To understand why there’s a hole in the seat of the chair, we recommend you read about Pope Joan here.

Bubble Room “Next Lounge” – Art Toronto 2009

Castor was asked to be design a room to feature artwork during Toronto Art Fair. The Bubble House was created with bubble wrap including the floor. Visitors were encouraged to break the bubbles. Castor also designed and built a bubble wrap-breaking machine.

Winnebago – Toronto IDS 2009

Castor was selected as feature designers for the Interior Design Show in Toronto. A ’75 Winnebago Indian was renovated into a lounge with wood burning stove, Castor furniture, a vintage record player, and a working kitchen. After the show it was used as a private dining area at Castor’s restaurant Oddfellows.

Beton Brut – Toronto IDS 2008

One of 10 Innovative Canadian Designers featured at the Interior Design Show. We installed a rough cast concrete fishing hut with stainglass windows, bulb chandelier and wood stove. The hut was an environment to showcase a new chandelier made from drilled-out light bulbs and the Blind Stool. The hut is now an outhouse in Castorland. “Transformer la boue en or” – Charles Baudelaire

No. 9 – Art Toronto 2007

Castor was commissioned to create an environment for no.9, a new curatoral agency launching itself at the Toronto International Art Fair. The space was both a booth for no.9 as well a rest area for the entire fair. Campfire-style seating around a bonfire of Recycled Tube Lights sat adjacent to the Shipping Container Movie House which featured a programme of short films curated by no.9′s Catherine Dean.

Room 212 – Come Up To My Room 2007

Castor participated in the annual alternative design show held at the Gladstone Hotel. 2000 ft of industrial red extension cord came out of the ceiling in a thick braid and hung out the window wrapping the exterior of the Hotel. Each cord ended in clusters of cages containing burnt-out incandescent light bulbs each lit with compact fluorescents.