Place des souhaits (2021)
Karen Tam and Jean de Lessard
Arbre à souhaits (2021)
Public art commission by the Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles. As installed in Chinatown at the corner of René-Lévesque and Saint-Laurent Blds. (Montreal, Canada)
35 000 square feet
Echoing the interactions, architecture, and multipurpose uses of Chinatown association or society buildings, Place des souhaits is an intergenerational space inviting our community to come together. A “forest” of colourful flags along the paths lead us towards the centre, the interior, the 'heart' of this public space, and to our 'Wishing Tree'. The circle symbolizes harmony or unity, its round shape promoting collaboration and cooperation. The outer circle with the public market with the restaurant and local business stalls is like the storefront business of a Chinatown building. The second ring with the tables and chairs where families and friends can sit and eat together, brings to mind the second level of these building that functioned as residential spaces. Like the top floor where we would find the society or community hall, at the centre of Place des souhaits, is Karen Tam's 'Wishing Tree' where a thousand handwritten wishes of longevity, health, fortune, prosperity, happiness, strength, and resilience to Chinatown's elders, families, organizations, and businesses, and for the survival and continued growth of Chinatown, have been hung from the branches. Underneath the wishes is a circular stage for performances and for community groups to hold classes, as well as a place for Chinatown elders to sit and relax in the shade. The colours of the flags are taken from the costumes and stage settings of Chinese and Vietnamese opera, historically an important source of entertainment for Chinatown communities. The colours of the flags represent joy and by planting the flags firmly in the ground, they are celebrating the tangible and intangible elements of Chinatown's culture, and Chinatown as a site of resistance and resilience.