LGBT Balls

From the beginning of May to the end of September, stroll along St. Catherine St. E turned into its annual pedestrian zone marking the 10th edition of Aires Libres, sponsored by the Société de développement commercial (SDC) du Village. Over the past six years, this vibrant artery shimmered under the “Boules Roses” pink-ball canopy designed by internationally renowned landscape architect Claude Cormier. The 2017 summer season as seen a slight change: the canopy has undergone a colour transformation shifting from solid pink to an 18-tone sequence reminiscent of the rainbow flag spanning over the entire length of the pedestrian zone. As faith would have it, Montreal will be hosting the 1st ever edition of Canada Pride organized by Montreal Pride. Was this planned or was it coincidence? Let’s just say it was a stroke of genius dealt by Claude Cormier and his team who were retained by the SDC du Village?


A 1 km public promenade covered by 180,000 balls forming an 18-tone sequence canopy extending from St. Hubert to Cartier streets. That’s right, 180,000 resin balls in comparison to last year’s 145,000. At each extremity, pedestrians will be greeted by a pink segment of the canopy, a reminder of the signature “Boules Roses” pink canopy, now famous worldwide.


“Over the last two years, we have been trying to push the « Boules Roses » brand in a different direction,” explains Claude Cormier. “We understood that the brand had to evolve and update its wardrobe, so to speak… Initially, we were inspired by the « Prismacolor » scheme, but we quickly realized that brown in the sky was not very attractive but pastel colours were. As gay culture evolves and the LGBT community becomes more nuanced, as attested by the addition of new letters, the diversity of tones to a redefined resin-ball canopy was an indisputable artistic choice… Also, the concept of « 18 Shades of Gay » is to some degree a reflection of this ongoing evolution…”


180,000 balls divided into 18 segments of 10,000 balls each highlighting a different tone. “It’s like a « Promenade of colours », without being the emblematic rainbow flag, it is however close enough,” says Yannick Roberge, a landscape architect who worked side by side with Claude Cormier on this and many other projects…


“Despite everything, we held on to a subtle intuition. We mulled over it and gave thought to this work of art trying to figure out what could be added, how to embellish it, etc. Slowly, our intuition was shifting, a shift that was in keeping with the times, and then it struck us: Canada Pride will be holding its activities here in Montreal this summer!” explains Claude Cormier. “When we think about it, the idea of the « Promenade of colours » was in the making since 2013 and has, after many discussions with the SDC du Village, reached its coincidental denouement this year…” adds Yannick Roberge.



André C. Passiour