The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC ) is one of the world’s foremost academic health centres. Opening in April 2015 on a 42 acre site, it is a redevelopment project with leading-edge facilities. The competition brief was for a monumental artwork to be located in the Main Plaza. This circular area, 98.5 ft in diameter, is in a landscaped area fronting the hospital and accessed by footpaths. The MUHC wanted a strong, impressive, contemporary artwork that could become an icon for the hospital. Requirements included lighting enhancement, and being highly visible both day and night and in all seasons.
The objectives included being highly visible to road traffic and to commuters in the nearby trains, drawing people into the hospital’s landscaped site, and becoming an iconic symbol for the hospital. As the development of site-responsive installations is central to my art practice, the goals were very important in the artwork’s design and integration. My interest in the public space lies in the challenge of rendering a site with new meaning, or heightening what is already there; in creating a gesture that can transform a public space into a personal experience; in instilling a sense of place. Here, the challenge was to create a work scaled to the immensity of the site while also retaining a more intimate experience. A “sculptural embrace”, Havre welcomes patients, visitors, staff and passers-by into the artwork through three “doors”, offering a personal experience.
Natural daylight projects shadows through the artwork, transforming with the hours, days and seasons. I designed 4 lampposts to complement in ground lights (especially important in winter). During evening hours three sequences each thirty minutes long bathe the artwork in subtle shades of blue / blue-green, colours that evoke both air (sky) and water, elements essential to life.
I worked with many professionals for this project, most were involved during the competition design development stage through the fabrication and artwork installation.
Plan HB, Professional Technician for Architecture, translated my hand drawings and photos of my working maquette into computer drawings. These were sent back and forth as he adjusted the drawings and 3D renderings according to my comments.
Jean Laurin, Lighting Designer, developed a lighting concept that was tweaked with my input. We did lighting tests on site before installing the fixtures and tested the lighting on the installed sculpture before finalizing the programming.
Michel Bernier fabricated the presentation model and artwork. We have worked closely for many years; I was involved in all detail decisions and checked each stage of fabrication.
NCK engineers oversaw the fabrication, installation and foundation concept with input from the fabricator, installer and myself.
Formaviva poured the foundations, transported and installed the artwork. They were present at meetings with the site architects, site landscape architects, NCK engineers, Plan HB and myself.
An electrician installed all conduits, electric wires and did the lighting connections. This was coordinated with the drawing technician, the lighting designer, the installer and myself.
Seven artists were short-listed for this competition. This commission is the largest of eleven public art commissions spread throughout the new MUHC hospital complex and the largest commission of the Quebec government’s Integration of art to architecture 1% policy realized to date.
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Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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In the process, design professionals promote imagination and creativity, and through their commissions, make original art integral to and accessible in people's lives.
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