Inside New Circadia, a nap-friendly felt cave at U of T

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Lecture-hall nappers rejoice: U of T’s new Architecture and Design Gallery has been transformed into into a dreamlike felt cave meant to encourage on-campus dozing. New Circadia, a collaboration between the Daniels Faculty of Architecture and New York–based cushion maker Pillow Culture, was inspired by the 1938 Mammoth Cave Experiment, in which two researchers spent 32 days in a Kentucky cave to better understand natural sleep cycles. The cave is dimly lit and swathed in over 6,000 yards of felt along with a few scattered pillows, and guests are encouraged to rest and meditate while exploring the space. The exhibit, which runs until April 2020, contrasts a culture focused on productivity and work with a large space dedicated to rest and relaxation. “You’ve heard about the slow food movement? Well, this is slow architecture,” says Richard Sommer, dean of the Daniels faculty. Here’s a peek inside.

Guests enter the exhibit through the so-called Transitory Zone. Here, visitors store their belongings and don “spelunking gear” in the form of wearable pillows in a wide range of funky permutations:

 

There are no shoes allowed in the cave, but reusable felt slippers are provided. Guests are also welcome to just traipse around in their socks:

 

Visitors then proceed through a felt envelope into the main cave space, which the curators have dubbed the Dark Zone:

 

The space is covered in soft surfaces, from the floors to the walls, which invite guests to indulge their non-visual senses. Here, sound and touch dominate:

 

The soft felt is meant to evoke primordial feelings of relaxation and reflection:

 

The oblong, boulder-like structures have built-in subwoofers that play low tones created by Mitchell Akiyama, an assistant professor at the Daniels faculty:

 

These boulders are also super-comfy, and something tells us they’re about to be the new favourite napping spot for U of T students:

 

This area is called Oneiroi, named for the personification of dreams in Greek mythology. Visitors can create an audio recording of their dreams and listen to dreams recorded by others:

 

Once the exhibit wraps up next spring, much of the felt will be distributed around the Faculty of Architecture building to help improve acoustics: