Toronto architecture firm Lateral Office and CS Design created a seesaw set that lit up the annual Luminothérapie festival in Montreal’s Place des Festivals last January. It’s part of Tiny Landmarks, our look at six projects modest in size and budget but immeasurable in impact.
Picture it: a January night in Montreal, sub-zero wind whipping through the darkened streets. Ahead stands a row of 30 glowing seesaws bobbing gently like driftwood, emitting synthesizer harmonies with every movement. All around, abstract videos projected onto nine surrounding buildings create a towering tapestry of moving light.
This multi-sensory installation, called Impulse, is a part of Luminothérapie, an annual celebration of light held in Place des Festivals, and launched to get citizens outside to experience the joys of winter. It’s one reason Place des Festivals has become the focal point of the Quartier des Spectacles cultural district. Now home to 40 performance venues along with bars, cafés, galleries and cinemas, the Quartier is the kind of urban planning success story every city wishes for, one centred on a fountain-studded plaza that’s ideal for taking in summer concerts.
Activating the plaza in winter is a different story. With Impulse, the seesaws were a compelling way to get visitors physically involved. “We had the cover of Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division in mind,” says Mason White, co-founder of Lateral Office.
“We used multiple lines, each with their own pulse, but which collectively form a dynamic topography. From a distance, it’s a wave-like ripple along the street.” Each seesaw plays a different musical variation, developed with sound artist Mitchell Akiyama, with the speed determined by the riders. “We were interested in the idea of the user being the person who makes the space,” says Lola Sheppard, the studio’s other co-founder. “It becomes a giant urban instrument that’s constantly changing.”