Sensory architectural forms and tools (incense, soap, oak galls, pine pitch glue on a stick)

Artist: Sheryl Boyle


This tile is a collection of sensory objects. Each represents a Platonic element (earth, air, fire, and water), and each takes on a Platonic form (triangle, circle, square). These basic forms of geometry help emphasize the non-visual sensory qualities of the tile, reminding the viewer of the importance of atmosphere in architecture. The basic geometrical shapes also represent the logo for the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism.


The Platonic elements are assembled in a toolbox tray recycled from the trash in Luskville, Quebec. The triangular Frankincense cones from the Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle fill the surrounding air with aromatic incense. Adjacent is the square, a fragrant soap from Sabon on 6th Avenue in New York City, representing water. The circle, a Malaysian Oak Gall, represents the earth. The galls are wombs created by the gall wasp, which lays its eggs on the central vein of an oak leaf which eventually falls from the tree and is returned to the earth. Suspended in the centre of the box, representing fire, is a willow twig from Lapasse, Quebec, dipped in a pine pitch glue. The glue is made from:

  • pine sap from the Gatineau Hills;

  • charcoal powder from Cedar of Lebanon pine cones in Bristol, United Kingdom;

  • bone dust;

  • unfiltered beeswax.


This type of glue was traditionally used by First Nations people for sealing joints of birchbark canoes. Incredibly powerful and flammable, it has the consistency of black glass, allowing it to be stored on a twig and later activated by heat over a fire.