Folded Skies installation by Counterspace at Spier Light Art Festival

Folded Skies installation mimics the light created by Johannesburg's mine dust

Large-scale coloured mirrors recreate the iridescent beauty of Johannesburg's toxic sunsets in this installation by architecture studio Counterspace.

Called Folded Skies, the sculpture is formed of three structures made of interlocking two-metre-high mirrors, tinted to match the light created by the pollution in the city's mine dumps.

It is installed at the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch as part of the Spier Light Art Festival, on show from 8 December 2018 to 30 January 2019.

Folded Skies installation by Counterspace at Spier Light Art Festival

The South African studio collaborated on the project with conceptual art and design studio Stay Evil Kids, which specialises in coloured mirrors.

The colour gradients were made using the same pigment compounds to those found in mine dust – copper, aluminium, cobalt, iron – and equivalent non-toxic chemicals.

"Because of the mine dust in Johannesburg, the sunsets are very iridescent. If you are near a dump or in an area of high toxicity you notice how beautiful it is because of the pollution," explained Counterspace co-founder Sumayya Vally.

Folded Skies installation by Counterspace at Spier Light Art Festival

The pieces are named Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight, and are intended to recreate the light at these different times of day. The installation aims to highlight this impermanent quality of light as it changes.

"This project is about trying to capture that moment of temporality," explained Vally to Dezeen.

"When we do research work we also look at temporal flux and flows and the interesting things that happen in cities in small moments. So this idea of temporality is something that we find really interesting."

The pieces use sunlight to create reflections during the day, while at night lights are switched on and the mirrors cast coloured reflections onto the ground around them.

"At night, when the light is cast, it looks like the sun's rays. It has a golden quality," said Vally.

Folded Skies installation by Counterspace at Spier Light Art Festival

Folded Skies is the only work on show in Spier that harnesses sunlight and reflections, rather than using electric light as its main source of illumination.

"The shapes fold light, perspective and earth into each other, borrowing and disrupting the horizon line as a divider between the above and below," said Counterspace.

"Light folds on the reflective faces of the discs in the landscape, producing a blurred enmeshing of up and down, inside and outside, real and unreal."

Folded Skies installation by Counterspace at Spier Light Art Festival

Counterspace was founded by Vally, Sarah de Villiers and Amina Kaskar in 2014. The studio works at the intersection of research, architecture and urban concepts, aiming to highlight contemporary spatial narratives, especially in its home city.

The Spier Light Art Festival runs until 31 January 2019, after which the architects are hoping to install the mirrors on a mine dump in Johannesburg.

Photography is by Caitlin B Warther.