Heat Wave at Docks en Seine, CMD in Paris

From December 7th, 2017 until January 21, 2018 Salto Architects Maarja Kask and Ralf Lõoke together with artist Neeme Külm create enigmatic spatial installation Heat Wave at the Docks of Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris. The Heat Wave is a warming breeze that accompanies the people strolling at Seine.

Today, Paris most associates with the 2015 multinational climate accord that agrees to fight global warming. Climate change has already brought along damage to people’s livelihood with increase of natural disasters that have in turn caused famines and epidemics, economic and migration crisis, wars and political radicalisations. In a nutshell, people are more vulnerable and have reasons to feel more defenceless than ever before. Thus, the caressing embrace of the Heat Wave in chilly winter weather is an act of friendliness that manifests the simple notion of humanity.

Architecture critic and curator Carl-Dag Lige wrote in his article ‘Space(s) of wonder and intrigue’ for Cité Magazine issue #5 as following:

Heat Wave is a site-specific installation by architects Maarja Kask, Ralf Lõoke (Salto Architects) and artist Neeme Külm, exclusively designed for the Loov Kultuur/Culture Créative festival at the Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris. Like many previous installations by the same authors, Heat Wave seems to be both political and entertaining.

Back in 2008 the same group of authors together with art historian Ingrid Ruudi created the Estonian exposition Gas Pipe at the Venice architecture biennale. It was a temporary installation consisting of a monumental yellow pipeline connecting the Russian and German pavilions at the Giardini, and served as a critical comment on the Nord Stream underwater gas line, then being built in the Baltic Sea.
Also in several of their architectural designs (e.g. Sõmeru Community Centre, 2010; Baltic Film and Media School, 2012) Kask and Lõoke have dealt with public space, and tried to create environments which not only serve a specific function but emerge as urban event spaces. They are thus interested not only in artistic or architectural dimensions of space, but in the political and social processes which lie at the core of contemporary democratic societies.

Similarly to several previous projects, Heat Wave has a strong socio-political subtext. As a temporary installation, it primarily seems to propose questions about accessibility, comfort and security. One might find here reflections of public debates not only about global warming, but about future of democracy, post-truth media, and migration crisis. Who makes decisions about safety and well-being in our societies? What kind of social groups lack access to basic human rights? Who has the right to have “a spot under the sun”, or to be more contextual, in front of the warm panel of the Heat Wave installation presented at the Paris exhibition?

Even if those political connotations seem too abstract or far-fetched, there should be no doubt about the artistic quality and site-specific experiential value of the installation. With bright colours, dynamic lights and changing temperature effects, Heat Wave is an object of attraction and desire. It is thus possible to experience it also as a (mere) sensorial object causing wonder and providing pleasure. Nevertheless, Heat Wave’s importance as part of the exhibition at Les Docks en Seine seems rather to emerge from its enigmatic nature, from how the authors have combined sensorial with political, aesthetics with ethics.

With their work Maarja Kask, Ralf Lõoke and Neeme Külm demonstrate that bringing together controversial topics without proposing final solutions still serves as an effective artistic strategy for generating public debate. As part of the Paris exhibition, Heat Wave’s relevance thus emerges not only as an intriguing artwork but as a platform for discussing burning issues in our contemporary society.


Project is made in collaboration with Kalle Tiisma (Tehnolabor) and Kalle Pruuden (HansaNova).

Interview with Ralf Lõoke by Mari Peegel in EPL, 8.12.2017