Dal architecture float dazzles at Parade of Lights

New concepts, non-traditional float to create a "mystical, magical and awe-inspiring" experience

Dal architecture students putting the finishing touches on their entry before the Parade of Lights. Photo: Clark Jang

Like the 17th Annual Chronicle Herald Parade of Lights, the float prepared by Dalhousie’s architecture students is becoming a yearly tradition.

“We didn’t want it to fade away,” says Beth MacLeod, one of the organizers of the float. “As soon as you give it a year where nobody does it, no one might pick it up again.”

And given the previous success of their endeavors, continuing the tradition isn’t just important; it’s also an opportunity for the architects to apply what they learn in the classroom to a real project.

“We’re especially interested in bringing it back to architecture a little more,” says MacLeod. “I think in the past our projects have been almost ambiguous as to who did them and why.”

Ambiguity aside, last year the Dalhousie Architecture Students Association’s entry was awarded first place for creativity, use of light and overall effect.

This year, the group had similarly high expectations.

“We’re normally one of the better ones, so we save the best for last,” says Thanasis Ikonomou, a master of architecture student. 

But regardless of the outcome, the team of architects just wanted to have fun.

“We’re going to go in there with a lot of energy and see what happens,” says Ikonomou. “The idea is to create an interest in display, but also create more publicity and buzz to promote the values of working together.”

New concepts

Their entry was unlike anything ever conceived by the students for a float.

Six bicycles – lent to the students by I Heart Bikes – were the basis for the structure. Different teams of architects worked on each bike, giving each one a unique theme and design. The overarching concept, says MacLeod, was to be more mystical, magical and awe-inspiring for the kids in the crowd.

“It’s the kids you really want to engage in the parade, it’s more interactive and easy to engage with.”

“The concept came from almost what happens at Nocturne, these fantastical events,” says MacLeod. “I think the holiday parades are a little…” 

“Cheesy,” says Brenda-Dale McLean, another organizer. Which is what they wanted to steer away from.

Unlike traditional floats, which are usually hauled by flatbeds, or driven, for the past two years the architecture students have used bicycles for their entry.

Last year the float was wheeled by the bikes. This year, students wanted to integrate their designs with the bikes, as opposed to having them trail behind.

Ikonomou says what makes this year’s entry so unique is the unprecedented amount of experimentation with different designs, shapes and structures.

“We’ve never done something like this before. There was a lot of work done in figuring out what patterns to use, what shapes and what the structure would be like.”

Their design made extensive use of canopies, umbrellas and LED lighting. Plastic geometric cutouts dangled from the canopies erected above the bikes, and were illuminated by the white lighting, creating a ghastly effect.

The team, decked out in white painters suits, glowed in the LED lighting. Those who were not riding a bike walked behind, waving and doling out high-fives.

McLean estimated between 30 and 40 students worked on the six bicycles which made up this year’s entry.

Lining the streets

On a chilly night, more than 70 entries joined Santa Claus in the 17th Annual Chronicle Herald Parade of Lights, including festive floats, holiday carolers and marching bands. 

Barrington Street and Spring Garden Road were packed shoulder to shoulder with spectators trying to get a view of the parade.

Olympian Mark de Jonge acted as the parade marshall, and was joined by crowd-pleasers like the Cat in the Hat, Disney princesses, and, of course, Santa Claus.

More than 100,000 spectators were expected to attend the parade.

The Dalhousie Architect Student Association suiting up for the Parade of Lights.The DASA team prepares to head to the marshalling area.The Cat in the Hat high-fives children.A volunteer collects toy donations.
The Dalhousie Architect Student Association wanted to carry on the tradition of making an entry for the Parade of Lights.
Like last year, the DASA team was sponsored by I Heart Bikes. Bicycles served as the centrepiece of their float.
The concept behind their entry was to create a "shock-and-awe moment," says organizer Beth McLeod.
Thanasis Ikonomou, a master of architecture student, says the final product took a lot of experimentation with shapes, structures and designs.
A chilly night didn't stop thousands of spectators from lining the streets.
The Parade of Lights was expected to draw a crowd of more than 100,000 people.
The Cat in the Hat was one of many guests at the parade. He was joined by Olympian Mark de Jonge, the Grinch, and, of course, Santa Claus.
Disney princesses also made an appearance at the parade.
Christmas tunes and live music rang through the streets of downtown Halifax.
Volunteers collected toys for children in need.
More than 70 entries ranging from merrymakers to a holiday-themed Harbour Hopper entertained parade-goers.