Building a Parc de la langue française / Retracing my steps as a designer
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In 1979, Québec artist Rober Racine wrote a 190-word text that would describe his idea for Le Parc de la langue française, a landscape where one could literally meander through the French language. Although some partial iterations of this project have been presented over the years, the complete Parc has not been built. Yet. This thesis is my take on Rober Racine’s Le Parc de la langue française. In doing so, I found myself observing the design process itself, the making of a design project as well as my making as a designer. This thesis has many questions. Where could you build it so it would be, as Racine envisioned, ‘permanent’? Emblematic Mount-Royal Park was the first answer. Then how to unfold Racine’s 190-word concertina vision into a 2,14 million m2 park? How to intertwine the 60,000 words of Le Petit Robert dictionary into that landscape and create a space to celebrate the French language while providing freedom for slowness, contemplation and absorption? How to create the depth, layers, spaces and media through which the visitor could dialogue with the language, Olmsted’s park, the forest and the city? In building a project, I, as a designer, ask myself a plethora of questions. Layering the questions, one atop the other, is my design process. My proposition for Le Parc de la langue française is therefore multilayered: beacons within the landscape; a map one could keep and follow while in the park; a circular glass pavilion, 75 m in diameter where one could sit and read the full 292 m of a table on which the 60,000 words from Le Petit Robert are printed. This thesis also reflects on what builds a community around a project, how this community becomes involved in it, adopts it, builds it and nurtures it through time. In the hopes of engaging such a community, this thesis has become an exhibition. While writing my thesis, I reflected on how a design project is made and, beyond the project, how a designer is built. Examining the different layers of my persona – graphic designer, architect and now professor at UQAM – I explored the palimpsest that I am through the influences my teachers, mentors, friends and colleagues have had on me. Both cathartic and optimistic, this essay is testimony to what it means to be a designer and what it means to build designers.