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Credit: BCK Design

Montreal-based BCK Design's proposal to illuminate the façade of the Gesú features a yellowish glow resembling a candle flame created by LEDs around the theater entrance, but uses mostly white light to accent the church. The designers were inspired by the building's history and wanted to highlight its dual functions as a church and a theater.

Three Montreal designers won a competition outlining ideas to illuminate the façade of the Gesú, a church built in 1865 that now houses the oldest operating performance hall in Quebec. Mathieu Koch, David-Alexandre Côté, and Steve Blanchette of BCK Design received $10,000 for their proposed design, titled Rencontre sur les marches de l'église, or, roughly translated, “Meeting at the steps of the church.”

Organized by the Quartier des spectacles Partnership, the Gesú, and Design Montreal, the contest attracted 37 entries from a variety of designers, including students, from all over the world. Participants were asked to express the artistic and cultural vocation of the Gesú through a lighting design concept while also honoring the building's history. Submissions were evaluated on the following criteria: the concept's ability to highlight the heritage of the Gesú; the degree to which the concept communicates the Gesú's identity and presence within the broader context of the Quartier des spectacles (an area in downtown Montreal that is home to 30 performance halls and numerous other cultural venues); and the innovative and aesthetic qualities of the project and the experience created by the installation.

Koch, Côté, and Blanchette found inspiration in the history of the Gesú. The designers wanted to create a lighting design that took a respectful approach to highlighting and distinguishing between the church and the theater—the two primary uses of the building. “Our proposed lighting solution for the religious and cultural facilities … is based on the dual functions that have been defined decades ago by the institution,” the proposal reads. The entrance to the theater is carved into the curve of the front staircase of the church. The proposed design calls for perforated sheet metal that is backlit by LEDs emitting a warm glow, similar to the flame of a candle. Proximity sensors modulate the color and lighting intensity of the installation according to the movement of passers-by.

In contrast, the lighting concept for the church façade includes mostly white light, but is “enhanced in strategic locations by an amber color; a symbol of spirituality, intelligence, and strength,” according to the proposal. Now that the design competition is complete and lighting design concepts have been suggested, dialogue is slated to continue until the necessary funds and architectural components are in place. Additional information on the competition and the submitted design proposals can be found at quartierdesspectacles.com.