Greenberg, who’s behind the world-class visual art space DHC/ART, has done it again. The PHI Centre – named after the Ancient Greek letter because “we are divine,” she laughs – is a cutting edge multimedia creation and exhibition space that completely transformed and revitalized a decrepit historical building just a few blocks from DHC/ART, in Old Montreal. It is now the city’s ultimate multifunction creative space. “I always want to be nimble, flexible and responsive to the new things that’s being produced out there,” says Greenberg. “I’ve been lucky to have contact with internationally important artists over the last 10 years, and there’s a need for mediatic spaces – spaces that respond to the visions of artists like Christian Marclay and Jenny Holzer.” The way in which the space can adapt to these visions is pretty mind-blowing. Divided into eight different areas over four floors (plus a gorgeous rooftop terrasse), the space is a chameleon. Space A, on the first floor, has walls that literally can invert their purpose: one minute they’re made of wood, to refract sound and make it an awesome live music hall for 380 guests; the next, they flip over and reveal a spongy material that absorbs sound, turning the same space into a recording space. By pressing a couple of buttons, another room – the beautifully bright, window filled Space B, providing a striking view of the neighbourhood – turns into a blacked-out cinema perfect for video projections, sound performances, 3-D animations, you name it. “PHI was conceived not just as a building, but as a tool,” explains Greenberg. “I’d like to have people find inspiration in the space.” Perhaps the most impressive thing about the repurposing of this 1861 Old Montreal property is that it has followed Leadership in Energy and Environment Design standards to the letter. Its LEED Gold status is exemplified by a green roof and a skylight that pours sunlight down through the building’s four storeys.
“We really wanted to make PHI a monument, to the past, to ecological responsibility and to contemporaneity, with the artists we will be enabling. I’ve always been attracted to monuments,” says Greenberg. Programming starts on June 1, 2012 with the opening of an exhibition called Amentia, and will develop progressively during an “incubation period” that will last through the summer as creators, and the PHI team, learn all the things this smart building can do. I personally can’t wait to see what develops.
PHI Centre, 407 Saint-Pierre, (514) 225-0525
Amentia opens June 1, 2012
Isa Tousignant is contributing editor for Canadian Art, Montreal correspondent for Akimbo, and a freelance writer on art, culture, travel, design and shoes for everyone from enRoute to Canadian Business to herself.