La Joute Fountain

If you ever visit Montreal, Canada, there is a very good chance you will end up at Place Jean Paul Riopelle at some point. This public square boasts 80 trees from 11 different species. However, the trees are not the main attraction here. This is where La Joute fountain is, but this is not the fountain's original home.

The public square was built directly over the Ville-Marie Expressway in 2004. It was named after Jean Paul Riopelle, a sculpture and painter from Quebec who dies in 2002. He designed La Joute fountain, which was originally erected at Olympia Park. Moving the fountain actually caused a lot of controversy with the locals. Many people felt very strongly that the large outdoor fountain should have remained exactly where Riopelle created it.

Those who supported the relocation included Riopelle's heirs and the Quebec government. They believed that moving the piece would pay proper homage to the gifted artist because the new location would allow it to be viewed and appreciated by many more people.


La Joute has one central fountain accompanied by a number of bronze abstract animal and human sculptures. These bronze figures are both inside and outside of the basin. The central element has alternating jets, and on summer evenings a circle of fire is seen on the water's surface surrounding the central basin.

The fountain uses a kinetic sequence that lasts about 32 minutes for a complete cycle. From 7 pm to 11 pm the cycle begins just a few minutes prior to the half hour. The sequence starts when fountain jets expand, forming a dome of water over the sculpture. Next, the 12 park grates behind the piece begin misting one at a time. Each sequence takes about 90 seconds. After 18 minutes the fountain creates a dense fog and the water spraying from the jets turns into a gentle dribble.

On the hour, the nozzles in the circular ring surrounding the basin shoot jets of natural gas up into the air. Flame sources inside some sculptures ignite the gas to produce a very dramatic ring of fire. After seven minutes of burning, the flame, fountain, and misting stop, and the cycle begins again as the dome of water douses what is left of the fire.

If you are ever in Montreal this is a unique fountain you want to spend an hour watching. Make sure you pencil in time to view the complete cycle.