The Berlin-led initiative ‘Maison Fontaine’ offers refreshing ideas about public space

Crédit photo: Maison Fontaine photo by Patrice St-Amour / Markus Bader portrait by Annette Mahro for Badische Zeitung The Berlin-led initiative ‘Maison Fontaine’ offers refreshing ideas about public space

“This is always a question: who creates public space and who is it made for?” asks Markus Bader. Bader is a founding member of Berlin-based collective raumlabor that creates temporary architectural interventions in public spaces, particularly in abandoned, transitional or underused urban spaces. “If you examine it closely, a lot of rules, fears and doubts are already being built into the hardware that formulate our public spaces. It’s interesting to work on this hardware level to see if there are new ways, other ways, and if there are openings.”
Produced by the Goethe-Institut, with the Quartier des Spectacles on board as co-producer, the Fountain House sits at the corner of Clark and Ste-Catherine, transforming a dead and dusty corner. In contrast to the hard stone and cold glass of the surrounding cityscape, The Fountain House’s organic hardware is soft and inviting. Seeded with grasses and flowers on the outside, and edible mushrooms inside, the living walls of the round, two-level structure invite us to imagine a different way of using and being in urban spaces and structures.
Photo by Patrice St-Amour
Within the heart of the pavilion, inside the second layer of arches, we find the fountain. “The double layer was to create a filter, a sense of privacy and in betweeness. You go through an extended threshold, a space that allows you to adjust,” explains Bader. In this inner sanctum, clouds of mist envelop you in their damp embrace. Water drips into a circular pool that mirrors an opening above which frames the sky. Here, in the inner sanctum, water is everything—meditative, playful, refreshing and cleansing—and everywhere.  The Fountain House is a space to indulge in what Bader calls a “democratic luxury.”
“The fountain has a very long history of coming from a very functional place, distributing drinking water and as a place for washing,” explains Bader, “But at the same time, it’s also a social space for gathering, chatting and exchange.” In keeping with this spirit, The Fountain House is also the site for a series of projections and performances by local artists, collective dinners, a public reading and conferences on water. Presented in collaboration with the Biennale de Montréal (BNLMTL), The Fountain House is an interesting first taste of the theme “looking forward” that the Biennale will be exploring in October. 
The Fountain House
By German collective raumlabor
From August 27 to October 26, 2014
Esplanade Clark on Ste-Catherine St. (corner Clark)

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