Half Dose #15: Dirty Magic

"Dirty-Magic" is a site-specific installation that is framed by a literary analogy. It is a place where Dirty Realism mingles with Magic Realism and where the banalities of the contemporary city are infiltrated by unsuspected perceptual potential. It is a work that is disarmingly simple, perceptually complex and discretely perplexing. It was built in the summer of 2005 as part of the show "Paysages éphémères".

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Its modest site is a safety curb occupying a slice of the property of an Esso gas station found at a busy street corner on avenue Mont-Royal in Montreal’s Plateau Mont-Royal district. It incorporates two telephone booths and an ill placed pine tree. The appearance of this peculiar assembly is entirely forgettable and therefore fundamentally "invisible", residing somewhere between the space of pathos and the unwittingly amusing.

The space of the tree and the telephone booths are enveloped in a blanket of laminated glass sandwiching a pvb interlayer of golden coloration and metallic honeycomb pattern. A deferential neighbour, the glass measures the same height as the telephone booths (2.4m). An entrance on the perpendicular rue Boyer allows pedestrians to explore the space created by this strange accumulation.

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Our perceivable understanding of the installation is ever-changing depending on conditions of evening and daylight. Sometimes during the day, the glass appears golden, opaque and highly reflective – the honeycomb pattern clearly visible. At these times pedestrians are treated to the spectacle of their own mirror images, while the vehicular parade along avenue Mont-Royal casts sudden flashes of colour and light onto the reflective glass. At mid-day, when the sun is highest, the glass takes on a more transparent and subdued yellow green hue. In the evening, the work is lit by the ambient light of the gas station, street lamps, the telephone booths as well as the nearby restaurants and shops. As most of this light is cast from outside the installation, the glass is transformed into highly reflective and luminous gold. It is further transformed by coloured staccato reflections emanating from the passing vehicles.

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The desired paradox of Dirty Magic is that ultimately it’s act of framing the "invisible" will, upon its de-installation, make the public’s memory of the work a frame for focused attention on the "invisible".

:: Text and images contributed by Hal Ingberg | Architecte
:: Paysages éphémères = Ephemeral Landscapes
:: Odace évenements, client
:: Europaconcorsi feature
:: Coloured Reflections


  1. This is a step away from artificial towards organic. The way light and space played upon to change our opinion of it is different than we are used to. I'd like to see stuff like this in Omaha, but my fellow MidWesterners wouldn't get it.

    This is more true to the word organic than anything FLWright ever did. Maybe that's just the lack of sleep in my talking, but we need more experimentation like this to develop a potential design paradigm that's currently "foregettable".

    Or whatever...

  2. John, you are freaking me out! I pass by this everyday!! When I saw your post about another Ingberg project in Grand Metis, I thought this may also by him. But after looking at it and it's location in the curbed area between the gas station and the sidewalk, I figured it was something else, though I didn't know what. There are some other bus stops that use colored glass as part of their advertisements.

    The installation seems to have a blahness that also made me think it was also not by Ingberg. It is an neighborhood similar to Lakeview or Lincoln Park and the curbed area collects a fair amount of garbage. It could also be that the light during my morning commute contributes to it's lackluster appearance.


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