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Place des Festivals Opens, Fountains Operational

Dispatch from Montreal | Published : 02/Oct/2009 01:40

Place des Festivals (conversation)
Last year we wrote about the massive reconstruction project in the Quartier des Spectacles - namely, a new plaza for the yearly Jazz Festival and similar events. One year has passed and the project bore its first visible (or, rather, walkable) fruit.

The $40-million Place des Festivals plaza was unveiled last month with an inaugural show featuring fluttering multi-colored water jets (a rather expensive spectacle, opined some local journalists) and packs of awe-stricken tourists enjoying the last warm days of Montreal’s short summer.

Having snubbed the inauguration festivities, I went by with my camera to take a look a few days later...


...And I liked the place. The 7,500 sq. m. public square is a rather convenient link between Ste-Catherine street and the Plateau, although, I admit, the convenience factor may currently appear slightly exaggerated to me due to the aggravation that I’ve accumulated while having to detour around the construction site for more than a year.

The fountains are lovely (I’ll stop at that word and leave more insightful commentary to the art and architecture critics out there), the benches reasonably comfortable and the whole concept rather commonsensical. At least, until the suicidal breed of skateboarders arrives and breaks the quiet, which I am certain will happen very very soon.

Place des Festivals (quiet)
For the math and statistics fans among our readers, a delicious bit of trivia: the fountain system is made up of 235 jets of water. Some are red, some are white and the whole thing kind of moves and splashes periodically, to a certain artistic effect (again, trying to avoid wearing the critic’s hat here; in utilitarian terms, however, I think the red jets are the ones that are motorized and individually controlled). Also periodically - with a lower periodicity, obviously - a somewhat pensive monsieur comes and silently performs clean-up operations with a broom by sloshing excess water into the drain. This is partly because the fountains are installed directly and exactly at the street level with no water-retaining barriers of any kind. This daring design solution, in addition to providing one seasonal municipal job, will allow the entire areZa to be used to other ends when the fountains (and the gentleman cleaning up after them) are not working - for example, I’ve heard that the whole plaza will turn into an ice-skating rink during winter. And, obviously, a concert area during the festival season.

Thus, voilà, the Place des Festivals - a Swiss knife of a plaza, in the middle of the city. Open (with working fountains) until mid-October, then changing the mode of operations with an eye towards the ice-skating usage a couple months down the road.

Check it out (skateboard optional).

Place des Festivals (view)