Shedding light on the Quartier des spectacles

La Presse reports today that a new “visual identity” will be given to Ste. Catherine St. between St. James United Church and Berri Square, part of the ongoing development of the Quartier des spectacles.

More lighting installations will be added to the street, similar to what has already been done to the area’s cultural landmarks, including Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Club Soda, the SAT, the National Monument, the Metropolis and the National Film Board. Lighting pillars containing information about shows and cultural events will also be installed along the street.

Some details from the paper:

L’identé visuelle touchera également le mobilier urbain. Le rouge prédominera partout dans le Quartier des spectacles, autant sur les lampadaires que sur les feux de circulation, bollards, bancs publics, supports à vélo, poubelles, pots à fleurs…

Mises en réseau, les salles de spectacle auront une signature commune qui respectera toutefois leur personnalité propre. On peut déjà le constater avec le cinéma de l’ONF, où le mot «cinéma», en bleu, se répète trois fois, à l’intersection de la rue Saint-Denis et du boulevard de Maisonneuve, avec un déplacement vers l’entrée principale.

La Vitrine culturelle à la Place des Arts présente une autre de ces marquises dynamiques pouvant, notamment, donner de l’information sur les 80 lieux de diffusion du QdS.

«Le plan lumière fait déjà notre renommée, ce qui va permettre à la ville de devenir un théâtre. Le Quartier des spectacles sera, lui-même, le théâtre des théâtres», pense Pierre Deschênes qui était à la Fête des lumières de Lyon ce week-end pour promouvoir le projet montréalais.

The Quartier des spectacles’ existing lighting program has already made an impact. I’ve always believed that light, especially the kind of soft, colourful light produced by neon or LED, plays an important role in maintaining the round-the-clock streetlife we need in our cities. I can’t think of anything more evocative of big-city nightlife than ambient light reflected on wet pavement. The new lighting installations at Club Soda and the National Film Board are particularly successful in creating that kind of ambiance; they’ve reinforced the noctural, slightly seedy atmosphere created by the blinking neon of the area’s strip clubs, nightclubs and fast food joints.

There are plenty of Montrealers who are sceptical about the Quartier des spectacles, but if the lighting scheme is any indication, it’s a sign that it will serve to enhance the area’s mischievous character rather than replace it with something sanitized and family-friendly.

Photos: Quartier des spectacles


  1. Seeing it lives in the last couple of days and I have to say that if it stays, it will give a flair to the area, it a conversation piece and it makes tourists and local stop to see why. Beats Neons anytime.

  2. if my memory serves me well – the lighting is designed by Axel Morgenthaler. Local lighting artist that has worked in theater and galleries.

    That said, I think I prefer an “unmediated” city lighting project, where the confrontation of bars, stores and all make up the ambiance. (see the post above with Plaza St. Hubert in the 60s) Thiscreates a city – these projects go at it a bit backwards. The city is not a theme park, nor should it be. Unless you are in las vegas;)

  3. I see what you mean, but I don’t think most businesses would be willing to invest in high-quality lighting or signage without a grant or subsidy. Generic backlit plastic signs are the cheapest thing available and, even then, they’re pretty expensive.

    The government does have a role to play, especially in dressing up the cultural venues that are mostly funded by public money anyway. But it should enable private businesses to upgrade their signage and install their own creative lighting schemes. I know that Vancouver provides assistance to any business that wants to restore an old neon sign.

  4. Haven’t seen the new lighting installations yet, but I found the first generation (the red lights) rather hilarious. If the point was to rebrand the area as an entertainment district, it seemed pretty tongue-in-cheek to make it a “red light” district.

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