Cultural Metropolis: Stimulating Old Montrealby Hassan Laghcha
/ December 1, 2014
Rethinking the cultural profile of Old Montreal, exploring new avenues to continually invigorate this heritage district which was declared an historic area fifty years ago, and to especially engender the optimal conditions to encourage its burgeoning cultural potential. These are the objectives of the November 12 roundtable organised by Culture Montréal and the SDC (Business Development Corporation) of Old Montreal at the Phi Centre. The participants in this experiment, led by columnist Alain Dubuc, were comprised of designers, artists, architects, academic researchers, cultural stakeholders and citizens who have taken to heart the necessary task of ensuring the future of this iconic enclave of our metropolis.
Appealing to your five senses
At this roundtable, five Montreal designers from various disciplines were invited to use their five senses to critique the sensual experiences of Old Montreal and to share their reflections with the audience. The sense of sight was explored by the writer and musician Tristan Malavoy, the aural experience was assessed by Slam Québec promoter and poet Ivy. Natalie Bouchard, a university researcher, set out to report on the olfactory sense while designer Mouna Andraos had the pleasure to critique the sense of taste. Lastly, an appraisal of the tactile sense was given by dancer and choreographer Milan Gervais.
The presentations of these five respective sensual experiences resulted in a vigorous and lively discussion with the public who were also invited to offer their own accounts of personal memories and perceptions concerning the historic sights and symbols of Old Montreal. This unique aspect of the roundtable was especially appreciated by the numerous participants. Apropos of this initiative, the director general of Culture Montréal, Anne-Marie Jean, emphasised a focus on the much anticipated findings of the artists and designers who contributed to the development of the Cultural Districts project, which is on of the key priorities of the 2007-2017 Action Plan – Montréal, Cultural Metropolis.
Avoiding a barren landscape
Artistic Director of Quartier Éphémère and the Darling Foundry Visual Arts Centre Caroline Andrieu asserts that “public art is an excellent medium by which society can inspire and engender communication among people gathered in shared spaces.” At the roundtable, she underscored the necessity of more public spaces in order to facilitate meetings and exchanges between people. She also mentioned the need to augment pedestrian spaces and thoroughfares where members of the public can safely stroll and congregate.
“Putting in place a ‘thoroughfare continuum’ wherein pedestrians would have priority access followed in succession by cyclists and horse-drawn carriages, would gradually remove cars, one by one, from the focal point of Old Montreal” says Andrieu, “making the historic district much more pleasant for residents and visitors alike.”
In fact, numerous participants emphasised the necessity of putting the needs of the individual at the heart of any new developments occurring in the historic district. In doing so, a number of unforeseen consequences could be keenly avoided, such as “a culture of polarisation between commerce and residents” in the words of Chief Operations Officer Manon Blanchette of the Musée Pointe-à-Calière. She opines furthermore against “making the landscape of Old Montreal barren” as mentioned by Stéphane Chagnon who holds the dual posts of Director General of the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours as well as the Musée Marguerite Bourgeoys. While noting, in all relevance, the obvious lack of green spaces and especially the overbearing presence of concrete, Chagnon warns against erasing all traces of the past, which are an evocative force in ensuring the continued sustainability and permanence of the historic heritage district of Old Montreal.
Montreal’s 375th legacy priorities
The Ville de Montréal has unveiled a list of legacy priorities for the city’s 375th anniversary celebration. These projects will be subject to “further consultations to clarify their description, allocated budgets, the source of acquisitions and timelines for completion,” said a statement issued for this occasion. Here is the list:
Construction of a public space at the corner of Clark and Sainte-Catherine, which will serve as an ice-skating rink in winter months as well as a grand urban terrace during warmer weather.
Tales of Montreal
An avant-garde multimedia art installation involving several projections onto the walkways, the trees and the façades of Montreal’s historic district.
Espace pour la vie / Space for Life
Biodome migration and metamorphosis of the Insectarium. With these two innovative infrastructure projects, Space for Life aims to create ecologically conscious living spaces which will help further cultivate public awareness of biodiversity and environmental challenges.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory
Development of additional tourism infrastructure at this iconic monument.
The Garden of the Origins pays tribute to First Nations, Inuit and Métis women. This green work of art will take the observer back to a place in time where indigenous plants conjure visions of fine embroidery, pearls and lace.
Opening of the CESM Park
The Large Parks and Greening Bureau of the Ville de Montréal will grant public access to the site by opening a section of the Plaine Boisé area.
Discovery tour at Mont-Royal
This project aims to break down the barriers that exist at the park, notably, concerning public and institutional properties; seeking to unite them in a more tangible fashion.
Phase 2 of the Archaeology City and Montreal History expansion project will highlight the sizable and significant ruins of Fort Ville-Marie as well as Callière’s residence.
Redevelopment and enhancement of Parc Jean-Drapeau
Four areas of the western portion of Île Sainte-Hélène will be transformed including infrastructure upgrades to the buildings at Place des Nations and redevelopment of the waterfront promenade in order to create a sense of continuity by linking the eastern and western portions of the walk.
Reclaiming the Ville-Marie Expressway and the Champ-de-Mars project
A public space will be created in the vicinity of métro Champ-de-Mars station, City Hall and the new Université de Montréal Health Centre. Objective: to harmoniously connect Old Montreal to the downtown core.
Urban “Mountain-River” Promenade
This major project will link the river and the mountain. Planned to be exclusively for pedestrians, it will offer a journey that reveals the history, heritage, and cultural specificities of the areas through which it runs.
Improving the surroundings of City Hall (Place Vauquelin)
This project aims to increase the civic and symbolic dimensions of City Hall as part of a reflection on the whole area forming the administrative campus.
Improvement of the Sherbrooke/Pie-IX intersection and creation of a park
Boulevard Pie-IX will be the major public transit corridor on the east side of the island. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services are planned for 2020, which will bring 70,000 people per day to the intersection. A public work of art will be placed here.
Refurbishment of rue St-Catherine West
The subterranean infrastructure of St-Catherine W has reached the end of its useful life, requiring extensive work. The city hopes to take advantage of this construction to create a new layout for the street.
The Bonaventure Project
This project will notably contribute to the improvement of this major entry into the downtown core and will strengthen the links between adjacent sectors.
Coderre: $ 15 million for Alexandra Pier
“I initiated formal negotiations with the Government of Canada in order to salvage the Old Port of Montreal.” This announcement from Mayor Denis Coderre during the closing remarks of his speech was welcomed with applause and encouragement. Coderre equally highlighted the contributions of the three-year $4.5 billion programme of capital expenditures to upgrade the area infrastructure. This programme in particular includes a $15 million allotment dedicated to building a passenger terminal intended to stimulate the revitalisation and further development of the ocean liner and tourism industry at Alexandra Pier. “Five to six million tourists come to Old Montreal every year,” Mayor Coderre said before revealing plans the City will undertake in the coming months to revitalise Old Montreal, notably concerning the shoreline and urban promenades.
Objective: “To give families a taste of what it’s like, not just to work, but to come, to live and to stay in Old Montreal.”
• Christmas Secrects of Old Montreal – Free guided walking tour. Reservations required. www.guidatour.qc.ca
• TELUS Fire on ice – Four nights of fireworks set to music above the Old Montreal skating rink. www.oldportofmontreal.com
• New Year’s Eve at the Old Port – Join thousands of people for fireworks and dancing on December 31st. www.oldportofmontreal.com
• Igloofest 2015 – Four weekends of electronic music and dance featuring local and international DJs. Paid activity, January 16 to February 8, 2015. www.igloofest.ca
• Montreal Ice Canoe Challenge – The third edition of this extreme sport will be held Saturday, February 21, 2015. www.deficanotaglace.ca
• Pointe-à-Callière’s Port Symphonies – These free concerts (Sundays, February 22 and March 8, 2015) will use the ambient sounds of the Old Port to create a musical urban soundscape. www.oldportofmontreal.com
Translation: R. K. Basdeo