Winter Wonderland

TEXT Shannon Moore

Until early February, Montreal’s entertainment district, the Quartier des Spectacles, is transformed into an interactive exhibition as the district mounts its annual Luminothérapie festival. Since 2010, event organizers have been encouraging local designers to submit their work for consideration in two artistic categories: installations for public spaces and video projections. With an ambition to highlight the area’s architecture and to embrace the culture and creativity of the city, the Quartier des Spectacles presents the winning entries each year as a winter festival highlight.

This year, Montreal-based architecture firm Kanva was selected in the public installation category. Their design, created in collaboration with Pierre Fournier, Boris Dempsey, Côté Jardin and UDO Design, pays tribute to Quebec’s rural history in a unique and enchanting way. Titled Entre les rangs (Between the Rows), the exhibit consists of approximately 28,500 flexible plastic stalks arranged in rows that evoke the colonial land allotments of New France. With illuminated reflectors on their tips, the stalks also mimic the province’s fields of wheat and come alive as they sway with the help of the winter wind. The installation is set to string-based melodies created by Montreal composer and musician Patrick Watson, whose score contributes to the project’s overall sensation of tranquility and peace. Visitors are encouraged to walk through the magical rows and to experience a feeling of summer warmth amidst the cold urban setting.

In the video projection category, the district chose graphic design collective Champagne Club Sandwich’s charming and playful Trouve Bob. This Where’s Waldo-inspired game urges passersby to emerge from their winter cocoons and explore a series of imaginative scenes projected onto seven different building façades across the district, ranging from the louvre-covered Grande Bibliothèque to the curved Université du Québec à Montréal’s Pavillon Président-Kennedy. In each case, a timer counts down as players are challenged to find a figure named Bob, who is hidden among a mass of colourful graphics, unique animations and quirky characters that dance along to 8-bit music. The project draws attention to the ever-growing video-game industry in Montreal while also engaging the unique forms of the Quartier’s edifices. Altogether, Trouve Bob elicits feelings of excitement for those who come across the frenetic animations at night.

Although Montreal is known for its harsh winter weather, the festival hopes to inspire people to slow down and enjoy the beauty that surrounds them. On its opening day, the city achieved this goal as visitors dressed in warm jackets and thick scarves sat down in the snow to search for Bob on the building surfaces above them. Others walked unhurriedly through the rows of stalks, unfazed by the chill in the air as they marvelled at the intricacies of Kanva’s installation. Clearly, those who were brave enough to face the cold were provided with a memorable experience. For this visitor, the Luminothérapie festival was a glimpse into the vibrancy that a city might possess when it embraces its winter glory.

Shannon Moore is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto, with an interest in the history, theory and criticism of architecture.