There are currently many construction projects in Ottawa, but only one of them will be temporarily transformed into a world-first multimedia show as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations in 2017.
An underground light rail transit station under Lyon Street is being constructed to become one of many stops along the developing O-Train Confederation Line, which won’t be open until 2018. While its primary function awaits, the Ottawa 2017 Bureau – which is organizing the city’s celebrations for Canada’s sesquicentennial – decided that the tunnel is the perfect spot for a unique digital experience of light and sound.
Guy Laflamme, executive director of Ottawa 2017, says the budget for the proposed temporary tourist attraction will be about $3.5 million. However, a lot of the equipment for the underground show would be used for other, less-extensive “multimedia initiatives”, such as the Canadian Video Game Awards, which Ottawa hosts in November.
The funding will come from the federal, provincial and municipal government, as well as private investors such as CIBC, which partnered with Ottawa 2017 for the celebrations. CIBC is also celebrating its 150th birthday.
Monique Giroux, vice-president of sponsorships and strategic partnerships for CIBC, says the bank is looking forward to a fruitful partnership and memorable celebrations.
“What we like the most about the Ottawa 2017 plan is that they have really great talent on board,” she says. “Guy, for example, is a creative genius. This is something that has never been done before. It’s intended for people to have an experience they’ve never had before. It’s very exciting”.
Participants will begin their adventure at the Place de Ville theatre between Queen and Sparks streets, right next to the Marriott Hotel. They will then begin to walk the 300-metre tunnel – which is “right next” to the theatre – all the while being surrounded by and immersed in various forms of light, projections and sound, as Laflamme explains.
“What we want to do is stimulate peoples senses, get you to feel intense emotions of joy, of surprise and, basically, get you to feel very proud as you walk out of that experience,” says Laflamme. “This could contribute as a catalyst to generate innovation and creativity amongst our residents, as well as amongst our visitors”.
This includes, but is not limited to, the “movements of a train” and “ghost-like images” of people on that train.
“What we’re doing is not a figurative type of show. It’s going to be more of an artistic creation,” says Laflamme.
Laflamme was also the executive producer for the 2014 Mosaika light show, as well as the Northern Lights show last August and September – both of which were projected onto the Parliament Buildings. On top of that, he was responsible for the planning and development of this year’s Winterlude, in which he created a business model that brought in over 100 new investing partners.
Mosaika is a light show that explores Canadian history, culture and landscapes in the form of light, music and narration. While entertainment is a key factor, its focus is portraying this Canadian content in a unique, visual way. Laflamme explains that the 2017 show, in contrast, will have a “science-fiction” vibe to it, making viewers feel as if they have travelled to the future.
“We don’t want to duplicate what is presented on Parliament Hill by the federal government,” he says. “So, our show will be in a totally different style. It’s going to be less about communicating content, and much more about inspiring and playing on emotions.”
Moment Factory, the entertainment studio located in Montreal that produced Mosaika, has been chosen out of 11 other companies to piece together this new project.
A company spokesperson said in an email that it is too early for Moment Factory to comment on Laflamme’s vision for the underground sound and light show.
Multimedia shows such as this are not new. Yet, Laflamme says that this will be the first large-scale light and sound show in the world to be produced in an underground setting, “making the program unique”.
Mayor Jim Watson is also eager about the show.
“We want to offer people an unforgettable celebration for Canada’s 150th birthday, and we expect this futuristic and engaging production to inspire and move children and adults alike,” he said in an email.
The LRT station was chosen because of its significance to the Confederation Line.
“It’s not something that you can see in another city,” Laflamme says.
He says that because Ottawa is a major high-tech hub, that people need to be inspired about the future of the city and its modernity. This show represents Ottawa’s capabilities, he says.
While it may seem restricting trying to generate so many effects in an enclosed space, he says that it actually yields unexpected benefits. For instance, it’s a controlled environment that cannot be affected by weather.
One downside to the planned attraction is that organizers cannot interfere with construction. They will have “very limited access” to the station leading up to the debut of the presentation. This means the layout of the design must be flexible enough to account for whatever condition the station will be in.
Tickets will be required to see the show, and will become available sometime in the winter of 2017. The bureau has a “very conservative” estimate of 300,000 people attending the show.