05. Feb 2011

A sense of colour
Square des Frères-Charon in Montreal/CDN blüht auf

Text: Alison Ritter
Photos: Marc Cramer

Since Laurant Fachard put an end to the taboo of using saturated colours to illuminate a park back in 1997 – long before LEDs had become a serious design tool – coloured light has become a popular option in the design of town parks, squares and gardens. Fachard thus made Parc de Gerlande in Lyon into a kind of Mecca for lighting designers and urban planners. But although this project proves that coloured light can work in a park situation, provided that the overall concept is coherent, there is a world of difference between the 1997 design and the kind of lighting installations applied in landscapes today. We have more technology at our disposal and this in turn offers more opportunities for design. Colour-changing systems and or technologies that support changing projections can leave designers spoilt for choice, thus paralysing their decision-making processes. Coloured penumbrae hardly rate as a concept, and are often regarded as something incomplete or a mistake even… But what happens if a city decides to accommodate a coloured lighting installation in a small park in the centre of town? Montreal dared to try it.

With the redevelopment of Old Montreal and districts Faubourg des Récollets, Cité du Multimédia and Quartier International de Montréal (QIM) there was a need for the reorganisation of public spaces such as the Square des Frères Charon. The Square is an important part of the urban relationships between Old Montreal and the Cité du Multimedia and Faubourg des Récollects districts as well as for the Old Harbor and McGill street up to the Quartier International de Montréal. The location of the Square as a key urban space where a number of urban design signatures meet presented a challenge when it came to defining its role, character and sense of place in modern-day Montreal. Square des Frères-Charon offers the experience of a contemporary urban landscape inspired by the original use of the site, an area of wetland where the Charon brothers built a windmill in the seventeenth century. The new design is a response to the urban revitalization of a disaffected industrial sector. The project uses a simple, refined, and minimalist architectural language to create a dialogue between circular and cylindrical forms including a garden of wild grasses, the vestiges of the windmill and a park pavilion in the form of a belvedere-folly.
The design team comprising an artist, an architect, a landscape architect and a lighting designer was put together by the City of Montreal in an attempt to explore new ways of approaching the spatial and formal definition of a public space. The team objective was to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, collaborate, and converge on common ground rather than divide and distribute tasks according to habitual professional domains. The issue of identity was discussed in depth, especially from the angle of the users of the space and the connection between the social or cultural dimension of a public place and public acceptance of the same. […]
The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 75

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