Ur­ban­ism Mo­ment Fac­tory lights up a Mon­treal land­mark

A his­toric Mon­treal land­mark is brought into the 21st cen­tury with in­ter­ac­tive il­lu­mi­na­tion


“IT’S NOT EVERY DAY we get the op­por­tu­nity to change a sky­line,” says Gabriel Pont­briand of Mon­treal’s Mo­ment Fac­tory. But that’s ex­actly what the creative di­rec­tor - plus de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers from six other lo­cal firms - did when they rigged out the Jacques Cartier Bridge in in­ter­ac­tive lights that breathe new life into the iconic struc­ture.

It wouldn’t be the first time Mo­ment Fac­tory has cre­ated a spec­ta­cle af­ter dark. The stu­dio has built a rep­u­ta­tion for us­ing light as a ma­te­rial, mas­ter­fully craft­ing sig­na­ture shows and il­lu­mi­nat­ing ma­jor events and con­certs, in­clud­ing fir­ing up the stage for acts like Madonna, Nine Inch Nails and the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers. It has also cast light on pub­lic spa­ces, such as LAX, as well as parks and re­tail en­vi­ron­ments.

The big­gest chal­lenge with the Jacques Cartier Bridge was to re­spect the 87-year-old struc­ture’s land­mark sta­tus while cre­at­ing a data-driven pro­gram that would il­lu­mi­nate it with 21st-cen­tury tech­nol­ogy. The in­ter­ven­tion uses real-time data from news­feeds, weather reports and so­cial me­dia along with sen­sors and cam­eras at­tached to the iron trusses to give cit­i­zens an ev­er­chang­ing snap­shot of what’s hap­pen­ing in their city. Af­ter sun­set, the bridge slowly wakes up, the light in­ten­si­fy­ing as dark­ness falls.

Some 10 kilo­me­tres of ca­ble con­nect 336 LED fix­tures (each with mul­ti­ple

RGB op­tions) that shed light on the struc­ture’s in­te­rior or heart, 199 LED colour-wash fix­tures that il­lu­mi­nate the py­lons and tur­rets, and 2,224 out­ward­fac­ing pro­gram­mable LED tubes that light up the skin. These tubes, ca­pa­ble of out­putting 60 frames per sec­ond, con­vey ve­hi­cle, bi­cy­cle and pedes­trian traf­fic, pro­vide weather reports and broad­cast trend­ing news, with colour changes that an­nounce, say, an elec­tion up­set. But they also read the cit­i­zens. When peo­ple tweet us­ing the hash­tag #il­lu­mi­nat ion­mtl, the city’s mood is re­flected through dots – the more dots, the more Mon­treal-re­lated tweets; if no one is hash-tag­ging the bridge, it will be “quiet.” The in­te­rior LED fix­tures, on the other hand, func­tion as the city’s chro­matic cal­en­dar, with 365 in­di­vid­ual colours in­di­cat­ing the chang­ing sea­sons. Shin­ing icy blue in win­ter, for in­stance, they slowly melt to­ward a pale green that in­ten­si­fies as spring gets un­der way – a vis­ual cue for Mon­treal­ers to come out of hi­ber­na­tion. mo­ment­fac­tory.com

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