The teams invited to re-imagine Place d'Armes presented their creative, efficient, innovative and sometimes humorous proposals that bring a resolutely contemporary character to this historic spot.
Four hundred years of history and architectural history surrounds this square that is no longer conducive to daily and modern usage. It's one that we walk rather than walk through. It offers few services and little reason to stop. Of course there are tourists, and they are the principal actors on this stage, but there is a way to give Montrealers usage of this site without changing its character.
Team 1 Project presented by architect Randy Cohen, Big City This project seeks to retie the links between the square and its entourage, especially with the existing subterranean network by making it appear at the surface of the square. (Why not, for example, link more directly with the basement shopping centre of the Banque Nationale by giving it access from the square?) The square should, according to the designers, continue to welcome all modes of transport (taxi, bus, calèche, bike), but in a more fluid fashion. The calèches could enter more deeply into the square instead of lingering at the periphery, while buses could benefit from their own specific platform and parking for bikes could be built in the basement. In order to preserve its history, the square would be presented as an open-air museum with text displays and other hints of the past.
Team 2 Project presented by Claude Cormier, landscape architect For this team, the goal was to uncover the public dimension of the square -- not by being modern or nostalgic or fashionable or trendy, but by showcasing the immaterial reasons why a square is a true space for gathering. Like the others, this team recommends flattening the square while respecting the important elements like the monument. The crux of this design is its relief impression of the limits of the first church (demolished in 1843), a sort of giant wooden hump, which allows one to quickly grasp the history of the site whether on foot or in a car. In order to make the square a true gathering place, Claude Cormier proposes installing a giant fir from December to March, which will be dusted with artificial snow like a snow globe. Finally, he proposes floating an illuminated cross between two buildings.
Team 3 Project presented by architect Annie Lebel, Atelier in situ This team seeks a more relaxed square, one that is set free from its central monument, which will not be eliminated, but will be replaced by elements scattered throughout the entire surface of the square. Here again, the first priority is to reconnect the square with its adjoining streets by augmenting its surface and extending it out to the feet of the surrounding buildings. In this way, the historic buildings that border it will renew their importance and be given life with vibrant ground floors that can accommodate cafés, restaurants, and boutiques. The square itself would not be abandoned. To the contrary, it would become, through its central surface, an events theatre tied to the seasons: a water basin in summer, a skating rink in winter, a temporary market. The configuration slightly resembles an elegant skateboarding park in which the large surface is composed of ramps that descent into a soft cavity and ribbons that are benches.
There are common points in these three proposals: expansion of the square, a connection with the neighbouring streets and the elimination of the borders between the forecourt, the square and the sidewalks. As one intervener said after the presentations: "Anything that is not a common point between the three proposals should not be found in this project." Perhaps this is the track that the City will take when it comes time to make a move on Place d'Armes. "There will be follow-up," affirms Pierre Bernardin, assistant general director of the Mise en valeur du territoire et du patrimoine, invited to wrap up this multidisciplinary and multicultural workshop where designers from Montréal, as well as Buenos Aires and Berlin, the other Unesco cities of design, were present.
1 Anne Cormier, Randy Cohen, Howard Davies, architects, Atelier Big City, Montréal
Daniel Pearl, architect, Office de l'éclectisme urbain et fonctionnel, Montréal
Jean-Jacques Binoux, lanscape architect, Version Paysage, Montréal
Tamzyn Berman, graphic designer, Atelier Pastille Rose, Montréal
Alain Martel, industrial designer, Tak design industriel, Montréal
Raoul Hesse, architectural lighting designer, LichtVision, Berlin
Tomás Powell, architect and publisher, Summa & Barzon, Buenos Aires
2 Claude Cormier, Marc Hallé, Annie Ypperciel, landscape architects, and Luu Nguyen, junior landscape architect, Claude Cormier, landscape architect, Montréal
Gavin Affleck, architect, Affleck + de la Riva architects, Montréal
Raphaëlle de Groot, artist, Montréal
Ulrich Beckefeld, architect, Office for Subversive Architecture, Berlin and Vienna
Diana Cabeza, architect, urban designer, artist, Estudio Cabeza, Buenos Aires
3 Micheline Clouard and Julie St-Arnault, landscape architects, Vlan Paysages, Montréal
Annie Lebel and Stéphane Pratte, architects, Atelier in situ, Montréal
Alan Knight, architecture professor, Université de Montréal
Alexandra Martini, designer, Martini Meyer, Berlin
Martin Churba, designer, Tramando and Mauro Bernadini, architects, Planarquitectura, Buenos Aires
Translation by Jennifer Edwards