Public Artwork

L’Île des Commencements

Rober Racine, L’Île des Commencements, 1995
Rober Racine, L’Île des Commencements, 1995
Rober Racine, L’Île des Commencements, 1995
Rober Racine, L’Île des Commencements, 1995
Rober Racine, L’Île des Commencements, 1995
Vieux-Port, Montréal, QC, Canada
Artwork creator(s): 
Racine, Rober
Text author(s): 
Racine, Rober
Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal and a dozen private consulting engineers
Installation year: 
Remarks on location: 

Quai des Écluses or "Place du Génie", next to the Maison des Éclusiers, in Old Montreal


The artwork consists of a granite bench, 26 slabs embedded in the ground and 4 small bronze pieces grafted to the Maison des Éclusiers. The bench reproduce the shape of Ilot Normandin, a small island which was located in the River at about 100 meters from Pointe à Callière, before a dirt jetty was built to link it to the island of Montreal in 1834. It then disappeared gradually over time, absorbed into the harbour developments. The tiles around the "island bench" each contain 2 words, creating a set of 52 words chosen to illustrate the various engineering fields. The words are etched in 9 languages, reflecting the international aspect of the Port of Montreal. Lastly, four small bronze islands, representing the evolution of the connection of Ilot Normandin to the Port of Montreal, are attached to the railing of the rotunda of the Maison des Éclusiers. An information panel, installed on the front of the building, accompanies this illustration.

Text of the artwork: 



Île des Commencements

Oyster Island

Ilot Normandin

Market Gate Island


Artwork theme: 

The artwork speaks of the origins of the Port of Montreal. The four small bronze islands represent the Ilot Normandin from 1760 until it was integrated into the harbour. The bench-island recalls this ancient islet, but is surrounded by slabs that show the shape that it was given as it was linked to the river bank. The words that are written around this become a metaphor for the harbour-in-the-making. The multilingual slabs are both a symbol of the ships from various countries and a tribute to the achievements of engineers. Through the lexicon they present, they illustrate the various facets of the profession. This lexicon brings to mind multiple paths of reflection while marking the path between the Île des Commencements and the birth of the Port of Montreal. This multifunctinoal artwork can be considered in several ways: as a piece of furniture in the middle of an agora where several pedestrian paths converge; as a doubly commemorative reminder of both the Ilot Normandin and its transformations in relation to engineering works; lastly, as a work integrated to public space that interacts with pedestrians, delivering a vocabulary and ideas for reflection. Despite its commemorative aspect, the work remains discreet, devoid of reference to complex technologies, which does not alter its evocative power.

Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal