On September 14, 2018, GSM Project alumni, staff and friends gathered for celebrations at Espace 360° Pointe-à-Callière in Montreal, and in Dubai to commemorate our 60th anniversary. Singapore celebrations are coming up!
The evening kicked off with our 13th edition of GSM Talk featuring three speakers who were key to the firm’s evolution and success throughout the decades. Dr. Lydia Ferrabee Sharman, Designer and Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, began with an insightful look into the early days of working at Jacques Guillon & Associates in the 1960s, where she joined a young and international team. Having arrived in Montreal from working as a designer in London, she described the exciting nature of the nascent post-war design scene in Canada. Projects such as the Dorval airport, Place Ville Marie, Place Bonaventure, the Montreal metro, and Expo ‘67 provided unprecedented opportunities for industrial designers to establish themselves and transform Montreal into a centre for international design. Although one might assume that working as the only female designer amongst male colleagues in the 60s might have been challenging, Lydia described an atmosphere of openness and camaraderie with Jacques Guillon, Morley Smith and Laurent Marquart, who became the three partners in what we know today at GSM Project.
“I was happy to come work as a designer in Canada in the 60s. There was a sense of newness and possibility here, with big open spaces and skies, unlike the oppressive rainy mood in England.”
Dr. Lydia Ferrabee Sharman
Designer and Professor Emeritus at Concordia University
UQAM museology and heritage Professor Yves Bergeron followed with a discussion of the inaugural Mémoires exhibition at Quebec City’s Musée de la Civilization, which he worked on extensively with GSM Project. Opening in 1988, the exhibition examined Quebec’s cultural identity using a groundbreaking design approach at the time. Instead of designing the museum around a collection, it was conceived with storytelling at its core. Although the immersive design baffled museologists at the time, Professor Bergeron explained how this integrated design approach has since become the standard for historical exhibitions. He went on to emphasize how designing a new museum or exhibition is a creative act, not to be impeded by an overly academic or documentary approach.
“Designing a museum is an act of creation."
Professor of Museology and Heritage, UQAM
Another pioneer in museum design, Francine Lelièvre, Founder and Executive Director of Pointe a Callière Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, spoke about her vision for building Montreal’s first and only large-scale archaeology museum. She described the immense focus that it took to realize such an ambitious project with a strict deadline — Montreal’s 350th birthday in 1992. She was determined to bring together the best minds in archaeology, architecture, museology and engineering in order to realize her vision. This was easier said than done, as many of these individuals were in the habit of competing with each other rather than collaborating, but she knew it was the only way to achieve something new.
This multidisciplinary approach often led to unexpected creative ideas, wherein an archeologist might propose a solution to an architectural challenge, or vice versa. In terms of the integration of technology, she said she was met with skepticism in wanting to integrate a multimedia experience and theatre into the museum — it had never been done before. Like at the Musée de la Civilisation with their storytelling approach to exhibition design, she was ahead of her time. Today, she is proud that the museum has aged well, while continuing to evolve and grow.
“There is always a challenge of timelessness in design. Contemporary elements will be contemporary for a century.”
Founder and Executive Director of Pointe à Callière
Following the talks, guests were treated to an inaugural screening of a short documentary illustrating the story of the three founding partners Jacques Guillon, Morley Smith and Laurent Marquart. It’s a touching portrait of these creative visionaries, showing how the firm evolved from its early industrial design days to grow into the international experience design firm that it is today.
The anniversary ceremony drew to a close with the awarding of sculptural gifts to the three founding partners — Jacques Guillon received a letter G (Morley Smith was absent but received his letter S separately), Laurent Marquart received an M, and as a lighthearted nod to our current leadership, Yves Mayrand, our President and Chief Creative Officer, was awarded a sculpture of our signature “°” in gsm°. The evening continued with dancing into the wee hours as guests revelled in feelings of nostalgia, pride, and optimism.
GSM Project’s Dubai team also held a celebration in September, and a celebration at our Singapore offices is in the works. Stay tuned!