Arts & Culture

Ottawa gets set to blow your mind with its subterranean side

In a city known for its rich cultural history, the mind-blowing underground multimedia experience to be unveiled for 2017 will definitely be about the future.

Running from late-June to mid-September next year, the extravaganza by Montreal’s Moment Factory celebrates Canada’s 150th anniversary with serious emotional power—and it’s just one of the ways Ottawa is showcasing its capacity for innovation.

“The goal is celebrating Canadian achievements in terms of technology, and stimulating people’s neurons to open up new horizons,” says Guy Laflamme, executive director of Ottawa 2017 Bureau, which is hosting the capital’s anniversary celebrations. Laflamme previously worked with Moment Factory on the award-winning Mosaika show, which wowed spectators on Parliament Hill a few years ago.

Moment Factory has produced breathtaking audiovisual experiences using screens, lights, sound, music and architectural elements for live concerts by artists like Madonna and Jay Z, as well as interactive shows for the likes of Holt Renfrew, Los Angeles International Airport and Royal Caribbean cruises.

For Ottawa 2017, the company is taking its cues from the unique venue: the as-yet-unfinished Lyon Station of the new Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. Though the LRT won’t open until 2018, Laflamme and his team were able to convince transit authorities to grant unprecedented access to the subterranean space for an unrepeatable event that people will be talking about decades from now.

“We’ve never worked in a construction site before and we’ll be using the challenges it brings to augment the experience for the audience,” says Sakchin Bessette, Moment Factory’s executive creative director. “When you look at what’s happening with technology, there are many great things happening on personal devices. But what we want to do is gather people physically together, and this is a great project for doing that in a truly unique way. Starting with the location, we research and find certain storylines and things that guide us in creating the experience.”

The storytelling method is definitely not conventional. Born in Ottawa, Bessette knows the capital well and has watched it blossom into a high-tech hub over the last couple of decades. The city’s openness has made it a magnet for interesting collaborations and experimentation with partners both local and global.

As well as Moment Factory, Ottawa 2017 has teamed up with La Machine from Nantes, France. To describe La Machine as a street theatre company is a serious understatement. Their gigantic creatures dwarf not only human beings, but their surrounding environment. For several days next summer, they’ll play out their oversized drama in Ottawa’s downtown core, made all the more awe-inspiring by the use of fire, water and live orchestral music. “It’s not only a Canadian first, but a North American first,” says Laflamme. “Everywhere they go they attract hundreds of thousands of people.”

People in the capital next year will also get their screen time—though not exactly where they would expect it. For the Canadian Videogame Awards in November, game designers and fans will flood the city in a celebration of the gamer culture that’s become such an integral part of Ottawa—and Canada’s—economy.

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum will host the gala presentation, but gaming will spill out onto the streets for a full week. During the semi-finals and finals for the national gamer championships, games will be projected onto the side of buildings across the city. And once again, Ottawa will be turned into a stage for the best of the human imagination.


This is sponsored content. For more details on Ottawa’s 150th birthday celebrations, please go to Ottawa 2017.