CURRENTS : NIAGARA ’ S POWER TRANSFORMED A STORYBOOK FOR GIANTS
COURTESY : NIAGARA PARKS
BY ANDREW LEYENHORST
This show could not happen anywhere else in the world . From concept to execution , it was inspired by the history , architecture , and identity of this spectacular heritage building and its proximity to the Niagara River and Niagara Falls .
-Kim Viney , Senior Director of Business Development , Niagara Parks
Before the world ’ s most famous waterfall became a bustling destination for travellers around the globe , it provided its home in Niagara with a resource that would ultimately become one of the most sacred of all – electricity . Decommissioned in 2006 after a century of operation under the Canadian Niagara Power Company , Niagara Parks and the Montreal studio from experience design company Thinkwell Group have reactivated the derelict facility as a spellbinding tourist attraction that recounts the history of hydroelectric power and its origins in Niagara Falls .
A multi-faceted attraction that opened this September after nearly two years of development , the behemoth Niagara Parks Power Station during daytime hours boasts an offering of interpretive panels and interactive exhibits ; at night , it becomes a fully immersive artistic
canvas as audiences are treated to Thinkwell ’ s production of Currents : Niagara ’ s Power Transformed , a visually , sonically , and emotionally powerful multimedia show demonstrating cutting-edge technical production value and unprecedented creativity , integrated and largely supplied by Solotech and Moss LED .
Upon reaching a decision to restore the decommissioned building , the only intact early- 1900s power plant in the world , Niagara Parks ( who acquired the lot in 2007 ) would end up tapping Thinkwell Studio Montreal to design and produce an immersive experience , the nature of which was unknown at the time ; the studio was chosen on the merit of its previous work , rather than based on a proposed experience for the building .
According to Thinkwell Studio Montreal and Currents Creative Director Émilie F . Grenier , the task was to “ create an immersive , emotional , almost poetic story about the space , about the transformation from water to electricity , as well as the story of power , the station , and the workers ; and to tell that story in a way that wasn ’ t scientific or timeline-based ,” as the daytime offering covers the raw history and educational content in droves .
“ We had almost a carte blanche to create something engaging and remarkable ,” Grenier continues . “ And so , we knew that from a creative standpoint , we wanted to start from a language that many guests would understand ; the hand-drawn approach of the aesthetics was
born out of that , the idea to create something timeless and ageless . I call this experience a ‘ storybook for giants .’ That ’ s how we went about designing these tableaus , almost like a pop-up book ; you know , you turn the page and it ’ s this world that completely takes you in .”
The world of Currents ultimately does completely take in the viewer , as it ’ s an experience brought to life by state-of-the-art projection mapping , automated motion tracking , nuanced lighting , immersive audio , and of course a powerful creative vision to inspire the mind-boggling technological performance delivered by the experience . While it is certainly theatrical in nature , the audience is placed inside the audiovisual experience , as the “ theatre ” in this show is an entire section of the power station , complete with the original generators that are not only present , but also a part of the show ; which , in effect , begins
18 | Winter 2021