Sculpture: Torii Gate

A Gateway Between Dimensions: Torii Gate


Timeline: 8 weeks

Deliverable: Floating sculpture

Roles: Construction Woman, Lake-Wader

Tools: Illustrator, CNC Router, Power Tools, Hot Wire Cutter, Sanding, Painting

Torii gates are found at the entrances of Shinto shrines, signaling that the visitor is leaving the ordinary world and, once she passes under the gate, crossing into a sacred one. But what if, instead of from ordinary to sacred, the visitor passes from three dimensions to two?

drawing inspiration

Inspired by the uncanniness of “2D backpacks” and the Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima (which appears to be floating when the tide is high), I began thinking of the torii gate as an illusion or transition between dimensions.

the making process


First, I decided on the shape of my gate and the “water” it would be floating on, simplifying the architecture of the gates, and drawing from traditional water motifs in Japanese art. I then purchased plywood and created an Illustrator file, putting both through the CNC router. Next, I painted the pieces in colors that referenced the traditional red of torii, but that played with an uncanny 2-dimensionality. I referenced flat design and animation styles by outlining everything in black and leaving the paint matte. I cut pieces of foam to size with a hot wire cutter and glued them to the base of the water. Support pieces were added to the structure. In the fourth picture, the gate piece is resting against the support structure.

sink or swim


Due to limited resources, I only had one chance to see if my gate would float. I took my piece to a local lake outlet, where had to assemble it onsite because the completed sculpture was too large to be carried through doorways. Thankfully, my vision came to life as the structure’s 2D appearance caused a striking contrast against the natural background. I might have suffered from bug bites from the water for the next few weeks, but it was definitely worth it.