The artwork on the expanded Newton Recreation Centre uses a fern frond to represent the idea of "weaving communities together."

Sean Alward - Fern Façade


Artist: Sean Alward
Location: Newton Recreation Centre (13730 72 Avenue)
Category: Civic collection
Year Installed: 2017

About Fern Façade

Fabricated from frit glass, Fern Façade covers the windows of the Newton Recreation Centre expansion. The design is highly functional, helping to moderate the temperature of the building by filtering sunlight as well as reducing bird-window collisions.

The artwork is based on the athyrium felix-femina, or common lady fern. One frond spans the wall of windows, with one or more leaflets inside each pane of glass. A closer look at the artwork reveals thousands of dots, which mimic the round spores found on the underside of fern leaves—the plant's hearty reproductive system.

Ferns have been thriving in the Newton area since the emergence of rain forests sometime after the last ice age. The artist says, “They weave together deep time with present time and also the original landscape of Surrey with its current urban form. The film strip reference of the design, with its cropped images arranged in successive window panes, is a way of visualizing the ferns' paradoxical state of continuity within fluid change.”

The artwork reminds us that though we may have cultural differences and the urban landscape is always changing, we share a common bond: a connection to an ancient natural heritage.

About the Artist

Sean Alward is a painter and photographer. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia. Since 2002, he has exhibited in solo and group shows at numerous galleries across the Lower Mainland.