Client: ÉTS - École de technologie supérieure
Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
Completion date: 2021
Ateliers Michel Bernier
“Autoportraits” invites students and passers-by to engage with the sculptural installation, its surroundings (both built and natural) and each other. A triangular element, sited in a sunken rain garden, soars to a height of 20’. Composed of mirror finish stainless steel plates, offset by mat stainless steel plates at the base, it is outlined along two vertical edges with a thin red line. A circular podium of St-Marc limestone sits directly in front. Embedded with a random arrangement of stainless steel numbers, these 1’s and 0’s represent the binary code that spells ÉTS (École technologie supérieure).
The mirror planes of the triangular element reflect their surroundings – the continually changing sky with sun, clouds, rain or snow; the trees and plantings; the cars, cyclists and pedestrians. The podium offers itself as a platform for students – individually or in groups – to step up and take a photo with their image reflected on the mirrored surface, an affirmation of their engagement to the ÉTS and the natural world.
During evening hours, the base of the sculpture is softly illuminated with white light while the podium is bathed with red. A beam of white light projected onto the podium is activated by a person stepping onto it – and being in the spotlight.
The highly visible artwork site is in the new garden behind Centech - ÉTS, a prize winning renovation of the former Dow Planetarium building. The goals for the artwork included being a statement, a landmark in the urban fabric of this part of downtown. The competition brief stated “the work will be located in the heart of a university campus park; it must be symbolically appropriable by the students, for example, to become the element in front of which the graduates will pose for their graduation photo. The proposal must be thoughtfully integrated into its context. A touch of colour from the ÉTS could be integrated into the work.” These goals, together with the architectural interventions to the building - opening it up to the outside environment, letting in light, using pure lines, the landscaping plan and site dimensions informed the material choice, shape, scale and concept of the artwork. The colour used for ÉTS’ visual branding were incorporated as two narrow red lines outlining the sculpture, announcing the school when approaching from the road or sidewalk. The podium positions the students to take a selfie, their reflections mingling with those of the surrounding buildings and plants.
The artwork was chosen through a competition run by Quebec’s 1% programme. Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to photograph the work at night due to a curfew. Included is a night rendering, showing the podium bathed in red light.