By Rebecca Kiriakopoulos
Cutting-edge technology, astounding interactive elements, spectacular lights, sounds and special effects — in a subway tunnel? This is just one of the many events on deck this year as Canada marks 150 years as a nation and the city revs up its Ottawa 2017 celebration.
This summer, the future Lyon Station on the Confederation Line of Ottawa’s new light-rail transit system will be home to a first-of-its-kind underground multimedia display titled Kontinuum.
“The LRT is an important, transformative project in recent decades for the City of Ottawa,” said Guy Laflamme, executive director of Ottawa 2017. “I felt that it would have been a shame not to have something to refer to the Confederation Line as part of our program.”
Kontinuum will be the first opportunity people will have to to see a light rail station and tunnel before it is fully functional in 2018. The free show will run for 10 weeks from the late June until mid-September.
The Moment Factory, a Montreal-based multimedia and entertainment studio, is the brains behind Kontinuum. The company was also responsible for the successful Mosaika, the sound and light show that ran on Parliament Hill from 2010 to 2014.
However, Laflamme insists that Kontinuum is a very different type of production from Mosaika.
“It’s not going to be a figurative type of show that expresses the story of Ottawa or Canada,” he explained. “It’s going to be more of an emotional experience. It’s going to be as close as you can possibly get to time travel.”
The premise of the show is that as workers were excavating the tunnels for the construction of the LRT, they hit a glitch that gave them access to the future. “This is obviously not the case,” said Laflamme, “but this is what we’re going to tell people as they enter and walk all 250 metres of the station and be exposed to all kinds of cutting-edge light, sound and special effects.”
Laflamme spoke with Peter Aykroyd, one of the executive directors of the 1967 Centennial Commission, in the early stages of Ottawa 2017.
“It’s one thing to celebrate the past and its one thing to educate people about our history, but make sure that your celebration will inspire young generations about our future,” said the now 95-year-old Aykroyd.
When Laflamme designed the target audience for Ottawa 2017, he said new Canadians and youth were a priority.
“It was obvious that we needed to develop a program that was very cutting edge, very futuristic and very modern,” he said. “That’s what appeals to young generations as well as to seniors, families and so on.”
As Canada gears up to celebrate the big 150, the nation’s capital has heightened its international profile. “Tourism Canada was blown away,” said Laflamme. “They were not expecting a program of this magnitude from little, traditional Ottawa.”
Caroline Couture-Gillgrass, communications manager at Ottawa Tourism, said the agency is looking forward to an incredibly busy year.
“The year has just begun, so there are no statistics yet. However, Canada is getting a lot of attention and we are positioning Ottawa as the destination within Canada to celebrate 150 years,” she said. “We expect increases internationally and Ottawa expects a good share of those new visitors.”
“People have to understand that what we’re doing is more than just a party,” Laflamme noted. “It’s a very symbolic, rich in content, series of events that will contribute to our economy but also help to refresh the image of Ottawa around the country — but also around the world.”
The date for the first official showing of Kontinuum has yet to be announced, but Laflamme said people should stay tuned to the Ottawa 2017 app and social media pages for updates on the upcoming events.
The organization’s website provides more information and social links.