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Art installation at Google's Kitchener offices pays homage to innovative past of buildings – CBC.ca

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In the heart of Kitchener’s tech scene is an homage to the past.

A new art installation can be seen outside Google’s offices in Kitchener. Steel rings were installed at the base of the five-storey columns outside 20 Breithaupt St. and on them are photos that show people who used to work in the factories in the area.

The project is by the building’s owner, Perimeter Development, in collaboration with the Kitchener Public Library archives.

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Adrianne Bobechko, Perimeter’s director of development, said the idea came after a community member dropped off an old family photo.

“They thought, ‘Hey, it would be nice if the new owners had this photo,'” Bobechko said. “So we had that photo up in our office for many, many years.”

Historic black and white photo on ground around a building pillar
The original photo submitted to Perimeter Development depicts workers standing outside of Merchants Rubber Factory in 1923. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

As time passed, Perimeter’s design team kept bringing the photo up in conversations.

Bobechko said they thought: “Wouldn’t that be cool to actually incorporate that photo into the development to pay homage to the past.”

Photo of steel ring art piece at the base of a column at 20 Breithaupt street.
An image from inside merchant Rubber Factory in 1908 shows wooden feet the rubber would have been moulded over. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

The photos on the rings date back as far as 1908. Before they were Google occupied, the buildings at the end of Breithaupt housed rubber moulders and leather tanners.

“The rings have photos from the evolution of those different sectors,” Bobechko said.

“You actually see in the buildings themselves with all the equipment and the machinery,” she added. “There’s also a lot of women who worked at the building, which is great, so we’ve also been able to highlight their contribution to the industry.”

Photo of steel ring art piece at the base of a column at 20 Breithaupt street.
A 1956 advertisement for foam rubber on the columns contains representation of the women in the industry. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

Bridging the gap between Waterloo’s manufacturing past and its innovative future doesn’t stop at the rings.

“One thing that you’ll see in our new developments here is the colour orange,” Bobechko said.

Photo of steel ring art piece at the base of a column at 20 Breithaupt street.
The rings are meant to connect the industrious history of the Breithaupt block to its innovative future. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

The orange symbolizes the soles of rubber boots, hearkening back to the Merchants Rubber Company who started making rubber footwear in 1907 at what is now 51 Breithaupt St.

“Our bike rings in the front, you’ll see they’re actually a rubber ring with an orange clamp,” she said. “Same with our garbage cans at the front, just to add that pop of colour and pay that little bit of respect.”

Photo of bike racks.
These bike racks on the Breithaupt block contain the colour orange to symbolize the rubber soles of the boots that used to be made at Merchant Rubber Factory. (Cameron Mahler/CBC)

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David Hockney: Ceramic cat gifted by hitchhiking art student to be sold – BBC

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Fast Rising British Artist Danny Fox on the Five Artists Inspiring Him Right Now – Artsy

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American anxiety, Georgian fireworks and a Black British pioneer – the week in art – The Guardian

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