Public Art in the Science Complex: Infusing the Beautiful into the Functional

Attentive passersby will have noticed: two works of public art breathe poetry into the Complexe des Sciences: cross waves, Allen Payment, and Transit, by Gwynelle Belanger. Amazing to find art in the Science Pavilion? “Science is very close to art,” believes Alain Bouillard, director general of major infrastructure projects at the University of Montreal. Whether one thinks only of the mathematician who reduces the fraction to its purest expression or of the images revealed by the biologist’s microscope, art infiltrates everywhere.

These two works were also commissioned under a one percent policy, which requires that portion of the construction budget for projects over $150,000 be earmarked for an artistic work. In the case of the Science Campus on the MIL campus, the University of Montreal has decided to split this amount and commission three functions (the third has not yet been established).

The selection of these works therefore followed a rigorous process: a selection committee composed of people from the Ministry of Culture and Communications, architects and university members evaluated the submissions of selected artists to the artist database. Four artists per work were then invited to submit a project. “The artists had to be inspired by two major themes: science and bringing people together, either among themselves or through science,” explains Mr Boilard, who says he was influenced by all the submissions. “The choice was difficult,” he says.

“Transit”, reminiscent of the spirit of the place

Gwynell Belanger in front of her work, “Transit”

credit: Amelie Filiberta

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For his own work Transit, Gwynelle Belanger played on a reminder of the history of the MIL campus land established at the former Canadian Pacific Railway marshalling yard. Student cafes in containers are a reminder of this heritage. “I came up with the idea of ​​rectangles to form a vertical sequence and during my research, I came across an aerial view of the marshalling yard. Cars with their different colors and lengths,” says Belanger. It was fascinating to watch.”

A revamped stained glass window appears at the entrance to the Library of Science Complex. “It’s not certain that people see cars, it doesn’t matter. It’s a nod to history,” says the artist. Long horizontal bands of colored glass lined up on a glass curtain wall. Gwenaël Bélanger created transparency And worked on the colors, and used a special glue that reacts to light without turning yellow.

Through the neutral tones of the walls, floors and furniture (cream, wood, transparency), the work creates an explosion of colours. “It’s like a heartbeat in the library,” compares Mr. Boilard. The center of the work, spread out in warm, blue outlines and it brings the idea of ​​a movement of change, “like the history of science”, remarks the creator.

The corridor offers little perspective to appreciate the work, which appears in the shape of a hemisphere, a constraint with which Gwynelle Belanger had to work. Up close, we can see textures, frames of blurry images, and gradients of rectangles. The 3050 pieces were actually created from real images, from Hawaii to microscopic scenes. Over hours and days, the color and reflection of the glass pieces vary. till the night, Transit is backlit and can be seen from outside. The sphere, which will be the size of the biosphere when completed, evokes the idea of ​​a planet as a molecule.

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“Cross Waves”: Playing With Reflections

“Cross Waves”, by artist Ellen Payment

credit: Amelie Filiberta

The second work, the installation of which has just been completed, is located on the roof formed by the air intake that supplies the laboratories. To appreciate its magnitude, you have to visit the highest floors: two large ripples formed by colored tiles in shades of red and blue, “like droplets falling along a wall of glass. And the water which creates waves when it falls in, ”describes Mr. Boilard.

Alain Pament thus chose the subject of waves, a phenomenon that occurs in many disciplines, from micro to macro, from physics to biology. It also serves as a reminder of the purpose of the new pavilion, which is to bring together different disciplines. The two intersecting pixelated waves also refer to the meeting of the two urban areas of Parc-Extension and Outremont, which the MIL campus attempts to connect. “It is the idea, in my work, of meeting and of the vibration of two identities,” confirms Mr. Payment.

The work space, in the middle of three glass walls, posed special challenges. “It’s an unusual place,” observes Ellen Payment. During his first visit, the artist was struck by the mirror effect of the place, a feature he decided to take advantage of. “It is amazing how much people ignore the effects of light and stray reflections. But this problem becomes a virtue when it is taken into account,” he continues. Reflection is therefore part of the work, which is called glass. Complement and multiply are carried out in the walls.

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Technical Challenges, Poetic Consequences

The implementation of both these functions presented several challenges. Technique first, because the public artist must adapt to the context of the building and certain structural constraints. For example, Mr. Belanger insisted, “We had to design a translucent work and work directly on the already installed glass.” Alain Payment, for his part, had to deal with several construction delays, epidemics and even a strike in the port of Montreal, where tiles imported from Europe were stuck.

The impressive architectural work of the Science Complex stands out from both these works. They add a touch of humanity while compelling contemplation. “Art brings a dimension other than the purely utilitarian.” It acts on both the conscious and the unconscious; It calms, slows down and makes you think,” summarizes Mr. Boilard.

works in statistics

Transit: 3050 pieces placed by hand Besides for seven weeks

crossed waves: 4200 hand-laid pixel tiles

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