November 23rd, 2012

La Grande Jatte

Posted in Canada, Public Space, Society and Culture by Christopher DeWolf

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Every day from spring to fall, a scene reminiscent of Georges Seurat’s most famous painting is reenacted next to the Lafontaine Park pond in Montreal. It’s as much of a scene as any bar or café: teenagers flirting, sunbathers bathing, les ostie de gratteux de guitare strumming their guitars.

Thinking back to my most recent visit to the park, in late October, and looking at Seurat’s painting, I wonder what particular alchemy leads to a place becoming a natural gathering spot for loafers and loiterers. English Bay in Vancouver, the southeast steps of Union Square in New York, Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath — is all it takes a slope and an open view? Or is there another ingredient?

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3 comments

  1. bruno boutot says:

    Beautiful photos.

    The sun is your answer. Most of your photos show the part of the park that I call “the beach”. It’s facing South, with no tree in the way: it’s the most sunny spot of the Parc Lafontaine.

    November 23rd, 2012 at 9:44 am

  2. Christopher DeWolf says:

    In this case, that’s probably it. Beach is a great way to describe this part of the park!

    November 23rd, 2012 at 11:59 am

  3. C. Szabla says:

    The sun is part of it — another is the fact that these spaces tend to be clearings in public spaces that are otherwise segmented by woods, fences, paths, etc. With the exception of the steps you mention, for example, Union Square is packed with protected landscaping, a large farmers’ market, a restaurant, etc. Public space in busy urban nodes often leaves space for completely free activity at a premium.

    November 25th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

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