Montréal’s famed “Boules Roses” installation returns in 2016, covering the lively terrasse-filled one kilometre-long Aire Libres pedestrian mall in Montréal’s Gay Village.
Designed by renowned landscape architect Claude Cormier, the iconic installation is made up of 170,000 suspended pink resin balls fastened to wires strung out through trees along Rue Ste-Catherine East between St-Hubert and Papineau streets. The “Boules Roses” – a.k.a. Pink Balls – installation can be seen from as far away as the Jacques Cartier Bridge and from the air, and has become so popular that tourists visit the strip on double-decker buses just to take pictures.
“The idea for Boules Roses came from a commission we got from the (Gay Village merchants association) Societé de développement commercial du Village about six years ago,” says Cormier. “We were asked to create something that would accommodate and not obstruct the festivities, terrasses, deliveries and police and emergency services. That didn’t leave us much space to work with! So we decided to install Boules Roses above the street to create an enclosed pedestrian mall. And we chose the colour pink to reflect the flavour of the Village.”
Cormier says it took “about six to eight months to obtain the approval of the city” before Boules Roses debuted in 2011. This summer the installation is back for its sixth edition, from May 5 to September 26.
Boules Roses is made up of three different size pink resin balls producing a five-tone hue. “This year we have 140,000 new balls because the original balls were only supposed to last one year,” says Cormier. “We will replace another 35,000 to 40,000 balls next year.”
In just five years, the Boules Roses installation has become an internationally-recognized symbol of Montréal, its Village and the city’s large and vibrant LGBTQ community.
“I never imagined that Boules Roses would become such a symbol, which is why we decided to continue the installation for a few more years,” says Cormier, adding, “Each year people ask, ‘Will Boules Roses return?’ One year Frédéric Metz (the legendary Swiss-born designer who died of cancer at the age of 70 in 2014) talked about the economic benefits of branding, marketing and identity, and told us, ‘Why would you get rid of an installation that has become closely identified with the Village and resonates internationally?’”
That said, Cormier also says, “I don’t think Boules Roses will be with us forever. I think we’ll continue to do it another few years, five years maximum, so that we can mount a “comeback” later on.”
Cormier is proud of his team and creation. “If I was travelling and saw such an installation in another city, it would impress,” Cormier says. “It’s one of those singular elements that brings pride and joy to a neighbourhood and city. When Boules Roses comes out each spring, it’s like a ray of sunshine – a ray of something wonderfully gay!”
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