Agent Of Spectra

Manasc Isaac architects team up to create a psychedelic display

Vignettes Design Series is a collection of collaboratively built, one-of-a-kind sets meant to enthral and inspire. Avenue will feature the best of Vignettes for the following three issues.

Each space in Vignettes Design Series is so dynamic and unique that, in a way, it can be tough for any single one to stand out. Alone in any other environment, a Vignette’s prominent personality would draw all attention from its surroundings. Side by side in Edmonton City Centre, they blend together more as a beautiful mosaic of imaginative design. One way to stand out among such works of art is to be the brightest. And the most delicious.

A group of 16 architects, graphic and interior designers, plus one musician, collaborated to create Vignettes’ most aromatic and colourful display — Spectra, an intense and immersive sensory treat that would fit well in a futuristic science fiction movie where the good side won and everything is peaceful and serene. From far away, it’s a kaleidoscope of straight lines and rainbow panes. Move closer and you’ll hear a mix of Edmonton’s most soothing sounds, drawing you in. Once you enter, you’ll inhale Spectra’s Jolly Rancher smell, and won’t want to leave her sweet candy embrace.

Yes, Spectra’s a she. “The name and gender just emerged as we worked on it,” says architect Safria Lakhani. “She has a scent, and she has a voice.” The team’s take on this year’s theme of “explore” is one of sensory discovery, by manipulating light and sound. “Spectra came out of a material exploration,” Lakhani says. “We started playing around with how we wanted people to experience the space, and we found this beautiful dichroic film, which gives Spectra her luminescence.”

Built within a wood frame, Spectra consists of double-walled polycarbonate covered in dichroic film injected with vibrant colour at precise temperatures. Four repeating triangles, plus a pair of trapezoids, were computer modeled and water-jet cut to millimetric dimensions, then pieced together like a puzzle, with tiny holes cut for the scent and sound to flow through. Being immersed in Spectra is like inhabiting a prism, or visiting a cathedral of light to worship shape, sound and colour that, thanks to its location, changes depending on the time of day. “We liked having the window [behind Spectra] because it lets us embrace the daylight coming in,” Lakhani says. “The two back panels are pink because of the sunlight coming in, but, in the evening, they’ll be totally different.”

Its lightness and geometric design makes it the most easily assembled and transportable Vignette (it only took the team about six hours to set up the first time), and the material will last for 10 years outside, allowing for a longer lifespan at future festivals and events.

“At Manasc Isaac we also have a big emphasis on sustainability,” Lakhani says, “so we are looking at what Spectra’s life is after Vignettes, thinking of different things we could use her in.” No matter where she goes, her future is bright.

Project Creatives

Manasc Isaac Architects

Marwa Alshara

Eugene Dening

Chelsea Haeber

Cody Jew

Rachel Killoh

Safira Lakhani

Nicole Lemieux

Vivian Manasc

Graeme Matichuk

Kent McKay

Jordan Polanski

Erika Sanchez

Tiffany Shaw-Collinge

Vedran Skopac

Zaid Tanveer

Carey van der Zalm

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Stunning ceramics

The Art Gallery of Alberta has interesting and unique geometric artwork.

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Modern and bright, F2 Furnishings has furniture that will light up a room.


Backlit backsplash from World Stone sets a cool, calming mood.

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Whether a piece of art or an entire room, bright is beautiful.

From candles to scent machines, aromatic additions are an olfactory delight.

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