Final chapter: Newton’s ‘Encyclopedia House’ to be dismantled after Sunday dance party

For several weeks, the building made of books has been a go-to gathering spot

David Dalley (left) and artist Don Li-Leger outside “Encyclopedia House

NEWTON — These are the final days of a house built of books, but the structure won’t disappear without a party – a disco-themed house party, in fact, with a mirror ball, lights, music, the whole shebang.

That’s the plan late Sunday afternoon (Dec. 6) at “Encyclopedia House,” the art installation created by Don Li-Leger and others amid a stand of trees – dubbed “The Grove” – outside Newton Recreation Centre.

The log cabin-like structure is built of thousands of used, discarded and otherwise unwanted reference books, assembled and affixed with screws over the course of a few days in early October.

The original plan was for “Encyclopedia House” to stand for about a month, but November came and went without its demolition.

“When we found it out we were going to leave it here a little longer, we did have to spray around the bottom to keep the water out, and the roof, too, a bit,” Li-Leger said.

“It was made to be temporary, after all. I think it’s at its time now, to move along.”

For several weeks, “Encyclopedia House” has become a go-to gathering spot for Friends of The Grove, the unofficial caretakers of the public space, and the greater community. Author readings, a series of tea parties, drawing lessons, a Remembrance Day ceremony, a vigil for those killed by bombs in Paris and Lebanon – these events and others gave the community of Newton something to embrace.

“It’s gone better than we’d hoped, I think, in both a physical sense and an imaginative sense,” David Dalley, a founder of Friends of the Grove.

“We thought it’d be probably a pile of mush at the end of October, when we agreed with the city to take it down. But it wasn’t, and there’s been no vandalism. It’s been positively received, and the city was OK with it staying awhile longer. Here we are in December and it’s still standing. It’s been wonderful.”

At first, city officials were reluctant to approve construction of “Encyclopedia House,” fearing liability issues.

The project materialized, however, in part through the lobbying efforts of Li-Leger and his wife, Cora Li-Leger, also an artist and fellow Surrey Civic Treasure awardee.

“It was met with a lot of skepticism – you know, ‘what are you doing?’ and that kind of thing,” Cora recalled. “We had to build up to a level of trust with the city, too, that we’d be good to our word and that we had good intentions. That’s been a trust-building exercise and I hope that carries on, because if the city wants cultural development, then it has to trust that process and then artists, in turn, can learn to trust the bureaucratic processes as well.”

Perry Fulop, manager of community and recreation services in Newton for the City of Surrey, calls “Encyclopedia House” a real success story.

“It’s been interesting to have this as a focal point, people gathering around it,” Fulop said. “At the beginning I wasn’t sure how it’d all work, but it’s worked very well, this well-made house of books in the middle of a grove of trees.

Staff at the nearby rec centre and arena have fielded “a ton of questions about it” over the past couple of months, he added, and a lot of people will be sad to see it go.

“People were intrigued by it and wanted to know all about it,” Fulop explained.

“We heard at the beginning that there would be vandalism, people would just tear it down,” he added, “but David (Dalley) encouraged everyone to believe, and it’s been untouched, which is wonderful. This area has such a rough reputation, but it’s not really true. It’s changing, transforming. It makes you believe that the next thing you put in here won’t be vandalized, either, and people will embrace it, too. People respect it. It’s been satisfying to see that.”

This Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m., immediately before the planned dance party, a Christmas carolling event will include a “free items market,” to which people are encouraged to bring gently-used items to give to those in need. The carolling will be led by “music therapists for peace,” Sue Bains and Steve Cottrill, and song sheets will be provided. From 5 to 6 p.m., when “the house lights go up,” dancing inside “Encyclopedia House” will be limited to four people at a time.

“The next day it all comes down,” Don Li-Leger said. “But it’s not finished at all, because the idea lives on. It’s become a meeting place, and the activities that have occurred around here, it kind of suggests the area needs something a little different, a casual meeting place where someone can pin something on the wall if they want to, a less formal environment.… Maybe it’s built out of books again, but the idea is there. We could do this again, perhaps in a more permanent way.”

tom.zillich@thenownewspaper.com

 

 

Just Posted

Environment, finance top of mind for new Surrey Councillor Steven Pettigrew

Unexpected advocacy led to political mentorship, says first-term councillor

Noted fiddlers bring kids to Surrey stage for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’ concert

Bell theatre date for Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy as they reunite for 23-city tour of Canada

South Surrey native wins ‘Oscars of hairdressing’ award

Simon James named Contessa 2019 Texture Hairstylist of the Year

Surrey-based business donates $1M to hospital’s children centre improvements

Surrey Hospital Foundation kicks off campaign for ‘transformation’ of children’s centre

OUR VIEW: Surrey’s unsung heroes inspire

The Now-Leader was proud to celebrate some deserving unsung heroes in this city on Wednesday night

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Ruling expected in CNN White House credentials case

U.S. District Court Judge will decide on White House press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta

WikiLeaks chief could see charges, US court filing suggests

Charges against Julian Assange could help illuminate the question of whether Russia co-ordinated with the Trump campaign

Federal MPs denounce controversial Facebook post targeting Sajjan

Okanagan Conservatives apologize for controversial Facebook post

Canada has enough pipelines to get the moon

Pipelines totalling 840,000 kilometres run across Canada

Migrants streaming into Tijuana, but now face long stay

U.S. border inspectors are processing about 100 asylum claims a day at the main border crossing with San Diego

One month after legalization, illicit cannabis shops doing brisk business

When asked what has changed since Canada legalized on Oct. 17, one staffer said: “We’re just busier.”

Hunter who saved B.C. man pinned inside smashed truck says ‘God was sending me to him’

Sayward man describes chance discovery of Duncan Moffat, 23, in northern Vancouver Island woods

Road-weary Canucks thumped 6-2 by Wild

Vancouver hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday

Most Read