Trop de Bleu

TEXT Leslie Jen
PHOTOS Olivier Bourgeois and Serge Boudreau

In existence for only two brief months from August to October of 2009, Trop de Bleu was a highly evocative installation that paid homage to the landscape and community of Îles-de-la-Madeleine in Quebec’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. Inspired by the poetry of the landscape, architect Olivier Bourgeois created five separate structures reflecting the seemingly endless horizon and the water surrounding this archipelago. And apart from the obvious self-referencing of the installation’s colour, the title Trop de Bleu refers to the vast expanse of the intensely blue water that surrounds the islands.

Stretching alongside a bicycle and pedestrian path along the water’s edge, the horizontal angular forms were constructed of recycled wood studs sheathed in fibreglass and painted cerulean blue. Large photographic images were applied to the surfaces, as were brief bits of inspirational text. While Bourgeois can take credit for the originating concept, the finished work was the result of a highly collaborative process that included visual artist Annie Landry and photographer Serge Boudreau. A great deal of consultation was also undertaken with local fishermen, whose fibreglass boat-building techniques were employed in the fabrication of the structures. This young architect is especially proud of Trop de Bleu, as it marks the very first project that he independently led from concept through to construction.

Part of the inspiration for this work was Bourgeois’s postgraduate experience in Scandinavia. Upon graduation from Université Laval’s architecture program in 2006, a prize from the Ordre des Architectes du Québec enabled him to spend two months working and researching in Sweden, after which he spent six months at the office of ex-pat Canadian architect Todd Saunders (see CA, February 2006) in Bergen, Norway. From this experience, Bourgeois learned invaluable lessons about the power of landscape in the design process in a Nordic context, lessons which he has deployed in his native country.

The end of this project’s short, sweet life was precipitated by a raging autumn storm. With winds gusting up to 120 kilometres per hour, the largest of the five structures came crashing down. The design team took this as a cue to dismantle the remainder of Trop de Bleu, returning the landscape to its original condition; a metaphor for the fleeting quality of life. CA

Olivier Bourgeois is currently working for architect Éric Pelletier, but is actively engaged in a number of independent projects. House 2G–also located on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine–is nearing completion, and two other residences are under construction in Quebec City.