The Fountain House: an ephemeral installation about water

August 27, 2014

Main text of post

Are you curious about that round tower being built on the Clark Esplanade? It’s the Fountain House, a work of art and architecture celebrating water. It will stand at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Clark for the next two months. The work is a creation of the German collective raumlaborberlin, and it’s coming to Montreal on the initiative of the local chapter of the Goethe-Institut, co-produced by the Quartier des Spectacles.

We spoke with Markus Bader of raumlaborberlin, the creative group behind the Fountain House.

What is the Fountain House?

The Fountain House is first and foremost a space open to the public, like a park. Inside, at the centre, there is a basin with water flowing in it. Why did we choose to celebrate drinking water, a public good that might seem rather mundane? Precisely because we take it for granted, and we tend to forget the previous generations that built the infrastructure that now allows us to benefit from this resource.

So you are sending a message?

This is not an educational project as such, but the idea of reminding people of the value of drinking water as a free public good was the guiding principle of the design. Above all, the House is supposed to be a pleasant space that everyone can discover in their own way. It’s a bonus if people are more aware afterwards. Anyone who wants to know more about the topic can attend one of the guest lectures about water (see below).

Why did you choose the Clark Esplanade for your installation? What are the benefits of ephemeral works?

Normally our collective works with in-between spaces, sites waiting for a long-term use. Cities, and Montreal in particular, have many spaces in transition. The Clark Esplanade is one of them. Ephemeral architectural installations allow us to take advantage of that situation, give the public a chance to use the space, and get people thinking about how we use public space. We don’t try to influence the space’s future development. We simply bring an idea and play with it.

The Fountain House will be enhanced by works by local artists (see below). Why did you choose to work with several Montreal-based artists?

We also have local partners for the construction of the installation itself. We felt it was important to open a dialogue with local people, rather than just showing up with our idea and installing it. That is how we usually work, so that our pieces incorporate several points of view.

Tell us about the structure’s unique surface.

We call it the building’s living skin. It is made of grasses on the outside and fungi on the inside. We wanted to explore the idea of metamorphosis. Over the eight weeks, the walls’ living layers will transform through exposure to sunshine, rain, temperature changes and wind.

Isn’t this an argument for greener architecture?

Yes and no. We don’t want to wag a finger and tell people we must change our way of building. It’s more of an experiment to see what we can do and how far we can go. Of course, it would be great if cities had more green projects, especially ones that go beyond planting more trees in the parks.

What comes to mind when you think of the Quartier des Spectacles?

It’s a very recognizable part of Montreal, a place that has a strong brand image thanks to its red dots.


5 artworks

Inside the Fountain House, in collaboration with the Biennale de Montréal

August 27 to October 26, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. • L’or bleu, an audio installation by Chantal Dumas

August 27 to October 26, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. • Flow Gate, a light installation by Cécile Martin

September 13, 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. • Structures élémentaires, performances by Magali Babin and Erin Sexton

October 2 to 26, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. • Horologion, an audio and light installation by Chris Salter

OCtober 9 to 11, 20 p.m. • light, sweet, cold, dark, crude (LSCDC), audio-visual performances by Ælab

4 guest lectures (in French)

September 3, 12:15 p.m.
Les eaux usées et la ville by Coralie Deny, Conseil régional de l'environnement

September 10, 12:15 p.m.
Montréal, une île au cœur du Saint-Laurent by Valérie Aubin, Comité Zip Jacques-Cartier

September 17, 12:15 p.m.
La Route bleue by Ariane Cimon-Fortier, Comité ZIP Ville-Marie

September 24, 12:15 p.m.
Les enjeux importants de l’eau by Martine Châtelain, Coalition Eau Secours!

2 visits led by Markus Bader (in English)

August 28 12:15 p.m. (duration: 30 min.) August 29 7 p.m. (duration: 30 min.)

Maximum 20 people; first come, first served.

Fountain House

Clark Esplanade (corner of Sainte-Catherine and Clark) August 27 to October 26 Free admission. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.