North-South Axes in Montr̩al РPerspective on the City { No.9 }

The Plaza at Place Ville-Marie - work of the author, Summer 2010

The plaza at Place Ville-Marie was most recently renovated in 2005, which resulted in its current configuration with significant new green space, flora, planters and glass skylight/entrances over the staircases leading o the shopping concourse below. Back in 1968, this space was the site chosen by Pierre Trudeau to hold a major election rally. As it was far more open-concept back then:

Pierre Trudeau's 1968 election rally at PVM - not the work of the author
Construction on St-Urbain, Summer 2009

Looking down St-Urbain with the ubiquitous summertime construction going on. I suppose the new concert hall is going up immediately to the right of this shot. Anyone know if the entrance will face St-Urbain or will it face inwards to the plaza at Place des Arts? Any chance there will be both?

I’ve always felt this stretch of St-Urbain is without much character, or at least there’s not much unifying the streetscape. It’s unfortunate that it serves as a continuous ‘loading dock’ for several blocks. Still, pretty to see the Aldred Building, rising steadily like a self-conscious fountain – never ostentatious as its almost invisible from ground level, muted in context when seen from a distance.

The view of the city from McGill Street, looking North towards Square Victoria

I love the view from this spot; so much character and bold vitality. Since the renovation and opening of Square Victoria circa 2002-2003, this area has become more ordered, though curiously this order provides better vistas along McGill, Beaver Hall Hill and within Square Victoria. Not to mention the covering of the open trench along Viger helped mend a terrible tear on the urban fabric. Now, this axis connects the uptown corporate and retail hub with the International Quarter downtown. Make no mistake, this is the link which will allow for continued development of the Faubourg des Recollets/ Griffintown region of the CBD, along with the Duke Street developments on the other side of the Bonaventure Expressway. Is it possible that the Montréal of the future will have two pronounced southern-reaching ‘arms’ of office towers and condos, tapering down along McGill while tapering up along Duke?

A key component to successful redevelopment of this area will be the introduction of more ‘street-level’ services and some low-density housing. Moreover, it could certainly use public services, such as schools, community centers, theaters, libraries etc. No city is built uniquely of condos, lest we wish to look like Toronto.

Did I miss something?

Macdonald Monument -Place du Canada
Monument to our first Prime Minister, a drunken, witty miscreant - work of the author

Clearly not a recent picture, since the statue is no longer there. I thought it was removed for renovation work, but all the reno work seems to be over.

Can anyone tell me what’s going on here?

And while I’m thinking about it – didn’t there used to be two canons here as well?

Who’s stealing this stuff?

Perspective on the City { No.8 }

McGill College Avenue during a snowstorm - work of the author

McGill College, once upon a time, was a narrow one-lane street, crumbling on both sides with the remnants of the residential buildings and small-scale businesses once typical of St. Andrew and St. George’s ward. By the 1970s, a good portion of this stretch featured surface parking lots.

The redevelopment of McGill College Avenue was a long and drawn-out process, thanks in part to Jean Drapeau’s insistence in developing a new concert hall for the OSM on the site.

Almost thirty years later, McGill College Avenue is a wide-open success story, acting as a central north-south commercial and retail artery with plenty of tall buildings making the best of this prestige address. Along the avenue, you’ll notice that the two tallest buildings north of PVM are positioned diagonally across from one another, and a variety of building heights permits generous amounts of sunlight to flood the space (enjoy a nice outdoor lunch here in the Summer). Oddly, it’s not the most traveled street, and can be transformed into an open plaza on occasion. It’s long redevelopment saga involved many prominent figures in the local architecture and urbanism scene, including Phyllis Lambert, who opposed the development plan of a company she partly owned. Even more bizarre, the two architects Ms. Lambert engaged to build the CCA, Peter Rose and Errol Argun, both played significant roles in the redevelopment of McGill College. Rose worked on the renovation master plan while Ergun designed the Place Montréal Trust tower (currently, the Astral Media Building, which used to be co-located at the LaSalle College building in the Shaughnessy Village on Ste-Catherine’s, which was also designed by Ergun).

As you can see, the back-and-forth between the city, the developers and the public continued for some time, featuring a wide variety of different proposals, which included some plans to block off the view of Mount Royal entirely, while others proposed odd looking bridges to connect retail shopping centers and department stores overhead, and then underground.

In essence, what we have today is the result of many, many compromises. And despite some bruised egos and a lot of frustration twenty some odd years ago, today we’ve got something that works, and is unmistakably Montréal.