Friction Ridge


Friction Ridge by Emilie Crewe is an Artist-Initiated Public Art Project. Instead of the traditional approach where the City has already determined the site, this opportunity encourages a more grassroots approach to support artist-led initiatives and experimentation.

In late 2021, a Call to Artists was issued and three artists were shortlisted and invited to propose public artworks for City-owned spaces. Artists were  encouraged to look at places where we gather and consider the impacts of the pandemic on how we meet, experience the world or relate to each other.

A Selection Panel awarded the opportunity to North Vancouver-based artist, Emilie Crewe who proposed an interactive LED installation on the façade of City Hall. Friction Ridge is mounted on six galvanized steel wire mesh frames. Three frames are installed on the front-facing overhang of the facade and three discreetly behind, creating a reflection on the windows of City Hall.

Featured prominently on the façade of City Hall, the project aims to connect the local community with their government officials through a real-time messaging system connected to LED light strips.

Composed to mimic the pattern of fingerprints, the project intends to honour individuality while also bringing awareness to the strength and tenacity of the peoples’ voice. The title of the artwork references the thick layer of skin on our fingertips called the “friction ridge”, while also signifying the location of the building atop a literal ridge, as well as City Hall being a place of “friction”, where town hall meetings, bills and bylaws come to pass. Friction Ridge is meant to bridge the gap between city officials and the public, forging a place for accountability, prospect, and possibility." - Emilie Crewe

The public is invited to visit the project website or the app and communicate with the artwork, sending messages through text which translate into cascading colours in real time.


Emilie Crewe is an interdisciplinary artist based on the unceded land known colonially as Vancouver, Canada. Her artwork often takes the form of multi-channel + single-channel video, installation, and new media. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. Her work is exhibited internationally in galleries, museums, artist-run centres, experimental film/video festivals, and as public art.

More about the Artist

This is a temporary public artwork and was on view for six months, from October 2023 to April 2024.

Photo credit (night photos): Courtesy of the Artist.

Learn More 

Check out this video to learn more about how the artwork was developed:


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Emilie Crewe
Installation year:
Removal year:
Primary materials:
LED strip lights
City Hall, 511 Royal Ave, New Westminster, BC V3L 1H9