Hanging out at the MNBAQ this summer

Photo: Shirley Nadeau
LOT designers and architects Vincent Meyer Madaus and Isabel Sarasa Mené demonstrate how easy it is to relax in one of the hammocks in front of the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion.
Vincent Meyer Madaus and Isabel Sarasa Mené are architects with LOT, an award-winning architectural and design firm with offices in New York and Greece. The two colleagues were in Quebec City last week to oversee the installation of a rather unusual interactive structure in front of the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion of the MNBAQ (Musée Nationale des Beaux-Arts du Québec). Dubbed Skyline, it consists of 10 large white metal arches in which six hammocks are suspended.

Visitors to the museum or passersby are welcome to settle down in a hammock and swing and relax and let the world pass them by for as long as they like. As evening falls, LED lights on the undersides of the arches brighten and dim gradually. The first evening Skyline was open, couples cuddled, parents and children snuggled, and cautious more mature adults sat carefully to test and admire the intricately-woven white hammocks. 

Madaus explained that the installation was originally installed last winter in Flatiron Plaza in New York City, a wedge-shaped property located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in front of the famous Flatiron office building. The footprint of the structure mimics the wedge-shape of the plaza. 

“The idea was to turn people’s gaze upwards, towards the skyline, whereas we always walk around like this (looking in front of us),” said Madaus. “Why not change our position, recline a little bit, and create a vertical structure that doesn’t obstruct the view of people passing by. We mimic the shape of a hammock that hangs down with an arch that goes up, creating a mirror image within itself. The idea was to have a place where people could hang out and spend their lunchtime, or even longer. We’ve even had people sleeping in them. They can support the weight of two adults, and we’ve seen up to four children in one.”  The hammocks are taken down when the museum closes, so people don’t spend the entire night sleeping in them. 

Sarasa Mené said she wants to keep changing environments and see how people interact with the piece. “It’s important for the people using the structure, lying in a hammock, looking up at the trees and admiring the cantilevered roof of the pavilion.”

It’s almost like camping out with the nearby artificial fireplace and stumps sculpture in front of the pavilion. The church bells ringing from nearby Église Saint-Dominique just add to the uniqueness of the location. 

“The structure is very durable,” said Madaus, “We hope to use it many more years and maybe even tour with it a little bit. Lights in the arches are programmed to brighten and dim to demonstrate how the structure lives a little bit – it ‘breaths.’ You swing very slowly and the structure does the same with the lights.” 

Madaus and Sarasa added, “The museum was very supportive in putting the structure up. They helped install it and took care of our scheduling during the day. The in-house electricians took care of all the electrical work.”

Skyline will be open to the public daily until early October. This summer you can come and relax under one of the oldest elm trees in North America while admiring the architectural beauty of the pavilion dedicated to contemporary art. 

Evening seems to be a favourite time for visitors to hang around the MNBAQ in a hammock.   Photo by Shirley Nadeau