Gatineau man gets $1,000 grant to decorate snowy roads with a roller

A Gatineau, Que., man hopes his idea for a roller to imprint patterns on snowy roads, sand and more will transform otherwise dull and drab urban public spaces.

'I subscribe to the notion that you can really change a space by a minimal intervention,' designer says

Jean-François Jacques, founder of the Gatineau, Que., architecture and multimedia firm Arkade, hopes to make a heavier prototype out of solid rubber with the $1,000 grant. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Imagine driving down a residential street covered with a few inches of fresh snow, and then imagine that all of a sudden wallpaper-like patterns carved into the snow begin to emerge.

Here's what the prototype can do on snow and sand. (Jean-François Jacques)

Imagine turning a corner onto a downtown street packed with bistros in the summer, and looking down to find a sidewalk covered in whimsical shapes made of water-soluble paint.

That's the world Jean-François Jacques hopes to one day live in.

Jacques, founder of a Gatineau-based architecture and multimedia firm, built a wooden prototype of a roller to make patterns with.

He and his team have now received a $1,000 grant from the Ottawa chapter of the Awesome Foundation to build a heavier version made out of solid rubber.

'Impromptu, whimsical'

"I subscribe to the notion that you can really change a space by a minimal intervention. ... There's a whole history of taking over the street, guerilla activism, guerilla art ... and this is sort of our addition to that narrative," Jacques said.

Jean-François Jacques says it's important to re-appropriate public space. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"Impromptu, whimsical public spaces don't really exist anymore, or the same way they used to when you were a kid."

In the short term, Jacques hopes the idea will take off with Vision Centre-Ville, an organization dedicated to revitalizing downtown Gatineau.

In the longer term, Jacques hopes to see the idea come to life on a larger scale in Ottawa-Gatineau, on main roads and elsewhere.

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