In June 2001 Montreal welcomed a new addition to its nightlife scene: Newtown, with a lounge, fine restaurant, and dance club on different levels. Housed in a corner building on Crescent Street, Montreal's club district, Newtown is a beacon of light, sparkling with clean, modern lines in daylight, and glowing with color at night.

Owner Jacques Villeneuve wanted his establishment to stand out from the crowd, and chose François Roupinian to design the lighting for all the spaces. “The owner saw some of my work that I did in theatre and multimedia,” Roupinian says. A few years ago, for the city's annual Montréal en Lumière festival, he lit a show called Ceci est une Sphère (This Is a Sphere) on the Place des Arts. “It was a big cube, 30'×30', and we had performances in there with shadows and projections.”

Roupinian has been working with light for 10 years, beginning with experimental theatre and multimedia events around Montreal, but he felt he needed some training to be able to go into more formal fields. He attended the Broadway Lighting Master Classes in 1996, spent the summer of 1997 at the Banff Center for the Arts, and graduated from Canada's National Theatre School in 1999.

For a young designer, he has a diversified portfolio. “I try to mix theatre and architecture in my designs. I find every different aspect of my work nourishes the other aspects. When I do dance I often will get inspired from a play I did or a building I lit. I did raves — all the big techno events in Montreal in the 90s — where you would have to come into a venue and it's very industrial and you would have to highlight the architecture. I like to experiment with industrial sources like mercury or sodium vapor lamps.”

The partners of Newtown “wanted to accentuate the decor and add a mood that would change during the night,” the LD explains. “In the daytime, since there's windows on two sides, pure white light comes in; it's very serene and soft. But at nighttime the lighting changes colors. They wanted a designer that did theatre and multimedia who would add a different background than an architectural lighting consultant.”

Lighting in the restaurant is subtle yet dramatic. The decor is pale wood, expanses of glass, and softly reflective white surfaces in the small angled panels on the ceiling and semi-sheer fabric on the columns. There is no direct lighting on the tables or patrons, it is all bounced off the ceiling or casting a gentle glow on the pleated fabric.

“A lot of research was done by me and the interior designer on materials to bounce lighting,” Roupinian says. “We spent a whole day in her kitchen testing different wood, different lighting on it, gels, reflecting water, putting scrims in front of the lighting. They were really open to that. It was like in theatre, there's a sense of teamwork.”

On the perimeter of the ceiling are four-head MR-16 pendants “like little theatre booms,” with two colors, amber and lavender, to bounce light off the ceiling panels. “It is very cozy, just the mixture of the candle on your table and that reflected lighting.”

Many of the fixtures throughout Newtown were custom-made by a company in Montreal called Sistemalux. “The boyfriend of the interior designer owns Sistemalux,” Roupinian says. “This company makes its own lamps and they're a distributor of a lot of Italian lamps. They have a lot of different components that are like a Lego sort of thing.” For example, the four-head pendants: “This at the beginning was two circular rings of metal with one MR-16 head. I went to their atelier and I played with it, and I drew a sketch, and I said, ‘Maybe you could put four on a stick?’ All the sources can accept frost, diffusers, dichroics; relamping is easy. It's a system that can grow.”

The disco has “a very experimental design,” he says. “There's just hidden MR-16s on the walls, there's 24 Martin MiniMACs, and large surveillance mirrors. The lighting is bouncing off those mirrors. It's run by a Compulite Spark 4D, and the colors are very rich, deep blues, deep orange, all the colors on the wall can change, and during the night the light jockey plays with that. The light show is the whole room, not just the dance floor. There's a wall of bottles where each bottle is lit from the back; it's really like a multimedia room.” The side walls are washed from the bottom with custom MR-16 units gelled in different colors hidden behind the banquettes.

In the lounge, Roupinian reports, “Every surface that's lit has two sources, a warm and a cool, and the shades are changing slowly during the night. In the course of an hour or two, it's very subtle, you see small changes in the room.” Inset into the bar at every seat is a frosted glass disc with a light source underneath shining up onto a large angled panel on the ceiling. “When people sit at the bar and they talk and move their hands there are small shadows. When you look at it from outside it looks very surreal. Most of the colors are all toned-down shades, it's very delicate, it's a mix of metal and wood, so from outside in the daytime it looks like a pure white box, but at nighttime it's like a show.”

Great care was taken to blend just the right colors in the various spaces and make sure they would last. Roupinian chose Rosco dichroics; there are 800 in the entire complex. “Sometimes we overlapped them to get the perfect tint. Rosco Canada were very supportive about giving us service, finding us the different colors that I wanted.”

Lighting throughout the venue is controlled by ETC dimmers. “The discotheque has a lighting board and its own dimmers; the lounge and restaurant are on a 48 rack with a Unison system,” Roupinian says. “Each level is independent and has a touch panel where it's programmed. Solotech in Montreal sold us the dimmers; they were very cooperative.”

This kind of electrical setup was new to the people who had to install it. “The chief electrician had a hard time understanding what I wanted to do,” the LD offers. “Having the whole building on dimmers was a little hard for them to grasp, and they had to learn to understand the type of plans I was doing, and adjust from the kinds of plans they were used to having. But when they got it they were so open, you could ask them for the world, and they were really into it.”

Contact the author at aslingerland@primediabusiness.com.

COMPLEXE NEWTOWN
Architect
Jean-Pierre Letourneaux

Interior Designer
Sylvie Drouin

Lighting Designer
François Roupinian

Lighting Suppliers
Sistemalux
Solotech
Rosco Canada
Martin
Pulsar
SSP

LIGHTING EQUIPMENT

Nightclub

7

Simes Minizips

27

Sistemalux 3-unit MR-16 custom fixtures

18

Sistemalux custom MR-16 8" glass cylinders

26

Sistemalux 20W bi-pin downlights

6

Sistemalux MR-16 rig arms

19

Simes Micro LEDs

90

Sistemalux custom Bulb in a Box fixtures

24

Martin Professional 150W MiniMACs

36

surveillance mirrors

36

Pulsar ChromaDomes

8

Sistemalux recessed multiple 7"x7" AR-111 custom fixtures

1

Compulite Spark 4D controller

48

ETC 2.4kW dimmers

Rosco dichroic filters

Lounge

6

iGuzzini Berlino with diffuser

24

Sistemalux multiple small MR-16 2-head fixtures

10

Sistemalux multiple small MR-16 3-head fixtures

23

Sistemalux multiple small MR-16 1-head fixtures

4

Sistemalux Modem MR-16 6-head fixtures

19

Sistemalux custom T5 21W fluorescent circular box

8

Sistemalux MR-16 mini ring solo

12

Pulsar ChromaDomes

12

ETC 2.4kW dimmers

ETC Unison architectural control system

Rosco dichroic filters

Restaurant

15

Sistemalux custom multiple small MR-16 2-head fixtures

25

Sistemalux custom multiple small MR-16 1-head fixtures

9

Sistemalux custom multiple AR-111 with glass cylinder fixtures

14

Sistemalux custom mini ring 4-head MR-16 fixtures

25

Sistemalux custom mini ring solo MR-16 column fixtures

24

ETC 2.4kW dimmers

ETC Unison architectural control system

Rosco dichroic filters

Exterior

45

iGuzzini mini Woody projectors

12

iGuzzini Linealuce fluorescent fixtures

1

iGuzzini Berlino

6

iGuzzini Blitz