Full Spectrum

Claude Cormier lifts the spirit with a gleeful installation for Canada’s Pride Month.

By Zach Mortice

Image courtesy Raphaël Thibodeau.For a temporary installation celebrating LGBTQI Canadians during Pride Month, Claude Cormier + Associates created a rainbow canopy to acknowledge a spectrum of identities that are “plural, diverse, inclusive, and nuanced,” as the firm’s website states. Asked to “create a place with a sense of magic” for a summer pedestrian mall, says Claude Cormier, his firm didn’t want to clog the streetscape with more visual noise as thousands of people in a festival atmosphere walked Saint Catherine Street East in Montreal. So instead, they looked up, forming an outdoor room with one kilometer’s worth of recycled plastic balls strung up on wires.

Six principal colors are differentiated with three hues each, hence the title of the installation (“18 Shades of Gay”). This long strip of color (installed May through September) begins and ends with pink, first dipping into the cooler end of the color spectrum before heating up. From the air, it looks as if a neon highlighter had descended from the sky to mark up the city in celebration of its diverse identities. And from the ground, different shades of balls cast the streetscape below in distinctive qualities of light. The effect isn’t monolithic or uniform. Subtle visual details (such as using two different sizes of balls) give Cormier’s composition depth and texture. “By having different sizes, the whole thing seems less flat, less uniform,” he says.

Image courtesy Claude Cormier + Associates.
Image courtesy JF Savaria.
Image courtesy Jean-Michael Seminaro.

The city didn’t allow the firm to use municipal infrastructure to suspend the balls, nor connect to private property, so the wires are hung by 168 freestanding (and unobtrusive) poles. “It’s a system that is independent of all buildings and any urban infrastructure,” Cormier says.

A team of 40 people took two months to thread 180,000 balls onto wire, and five days to mount the wire on the poles. The first time in 2011 that Claude Cormier + Associates installed a similar canopy (using only pink balls), it took 22 days. The new color scheme, first introduced last year, recognizes Pride Month as well as the 375th anniversary of Montreal.

Image courtesy Raphaël Thibodeau.
Image courtesy Raphaël Thibodeau.
Image courtesy Raphaël Thibodeau.

Zach Mortice is a Chicago-based design journalist who focuses on landscape architecture and architecture. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram. 

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