Montreal: Lessons from great Canadian urbanism
August 6, 2012
By Hazel Borys
Read More: http://placeshakers.wordpress.com/20...dian-urbanism/
- Outside of the fine-grained street networks and amazing architecture, the next thing that strikes me about Montreal is the exceptional cycling culture that seems to have taken over the city. The bikeshare seen here is empty, so perhaps the only complaint is getting the supply (5000 Bixi bikes) up to the increasing demand. Downtown has given over an entire lane to a curb-separated bikeway, which is supported with bike-friendly signage and signals.
- Rarely have I seen a North American city go to such great lengths to repurpose entire structures. This building is an extreme example, wearing its archeology as a badge of courage, marking time over the 1700′s, 1800′s, and 1900′s. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has expanded into 7 buildings over three blocks, thanks in large part to the urban form of the buildings –including an apartment building and a church– that lent themselves to repurposing.
Permanent Pedestrian Streets
- Scott Doyon recently pointed out the challenges of pedestrian malls, along with the places in which they work. Montreal is clearly such a place, with large populations of in-town housing, four major universities, and tourists. The permanent pedestrian streets here clearly work, including Rue Prince Arthur Est.
- Some of the permanent pedestrian streets here don’t behave as malls, but rather playful art pieces, like these 3,500 temporary overlay markers by Claude Cormier. Later this block will become a permanent sculpture garden. Usually we’d complain about clipping the street grid like this, however the grain is so fine here with large percentages of people on foot, it works.
Simple Public Space
- However tempting over-programming public space may be, simplicity makes a strong case for livability. Montreal plazas and squares satisfy basic needs for shade and rest, then save their investment for one central iconic feature, like a fountain or a small café. The results are timeless and so pleasing that the grass doesn’t always have to be perfect.