An Invisible Route to City-making

Guy Laliberté, founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, should be recognized as one of the great urbanists of North America.

While many of us have been mesmerized by his extraordinary Vegas or Florida performances, these locations are neither real nor particularly urban. By contrast, his Les Chemins Invisible is stunning on both counts. Having begun his theatrical adventure in Quebec, he has given Quebec City the gift of a free public event  four nights a week during the summer for the next four years.

So what would be the best venue within the city for such a gift?  A park (need a tent)? A rented warehouse (need a roof to support the lights, speakers and performance hooks, while incurring extra costs)?  Instead, Laliberté  placed his performance under the Autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency highway overpass in a desolate, abandoned piece of the old city. A formerly neglected spot is now an energetic focal point for the city. What a mind!

Last Sunday when I was there with my family, it was a typical summer of 2009 night—stormy and rainy.  Audience members and the 100 or so performers were protected by the overpass as we stood in awe of the performance. We were only dimly aware of the raging rain around us, while cars and lights whizzed by overhead.    

Who would have thought that such a forgotten place could become an exceptionally memorable part of the city? What Guy Laliberté has shown us is a different way to envision the forgotten places of our cities. He has turned an invisible space into something special and much sought after. For me, it opened my eyes to other spots we ignore.

In Toronto we have struggled with barriers that keeps us from our waterfront. In June Les Klein, a partner at Quadrangle Architects, put forward a much-celebrated idea to transform a section of the Gardiner Expressway into  an elevated green walkway . How can we also re-imagine what happens below this urban space? 

 Les Chemins Invisible: a street event created by Cirque du Soleil for Quebec City, June 24-Sept 6, 2009. Make a point of seeing the evening show, then going back in the daytime.  

 – Tye Farrow

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    We see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow’s built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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