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2005 10 12
Montreal’s Modernist Iconography
Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome has always been, for me, the quintessential representation of new world modernity. As a small child there was something about this image that had a great impact on my ideas about cities, culture, and Canada. From a kid's perspective it was like Montreal was the shining, multicultural city of the future - it symbolized all the great things we were poised to become.

Still, I have to admit to being generally uninformed about Montreal's Modernist past. For that reason I want to ask the readers of Reading Montreal for any references, stories, and images dealing with that phase of Montreal's history. Just email them to . I'll share them with the readers.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 10/12
2005 10 10
You Are Here?
Like many North American cities, much of the urban development of Montréal in the 19th century followed the grid pattern. Long narrow blocks of duplexes and triplexes were built, serviced by alleys, as an easy and fast housing solution. They also followed old rural roads and extended the streets at the river’s edge northwards. Navigating cities like Montréal becomes a straightforward affair, and we constantly call upon street intersections for orientation during our daily travels. But what of those mysterious streets that amble off the chart? That twist and turn to a tune of their own devising? Gilford is such a street.

Gilford is a familiar enough sounding street. The English name alone distinguishes it from the Bordeaux, the Cartiers and Brébeufs - those regions of the motherland or intrepid explorers of yore whose path it intersects. Its length is surprisingly short, so that while travelling north on parallel streets, Gilford is not always to be found. There is a vague recollection of its plateau location east of Saint-Denis. But where is Gilford?

Throwing a wrench into the otherwise orderly grid pattern of the plateau, Gilford dog-legs its way through the neighbourhood. It begins simply enough, a parallel line between Mont-Royal ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by Alexandra McIntosh on 10/10
Thanksgiving Ceremonies Cancelled
Image from:
Now that I have your attention . . . just joking. We wish all the supporters of Reading Toronto and Reading Montreal the happiest of Canadian Thanksgivings. Rohan Walters' continuing journal of the Coxwell House saga will be posted at Reading Toronto tomorrow.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 10/10
2005 10 08
The Mancunian Way

The Société du Havre de Montéal
unveiled its plans for a newly redeveloped Montréal basin today. Amidst the worrying about how to pay for the plans, and the rather bland renderings, there is, as is usual a plan for the demolition of the Bonaventure Expressway.

Expressways in our harsh Canadian climate were probably never a good idea. Road salt tends to work its way into the concrete, attacks the steel re-enforcing bars inside the structure and the next thing you know the Gardner/Bonaventure is falling apart. Our expressways are also frequently quite ugly.

There is an expressway in Manchester (my last site of habitation) that had an elevated expressway too; it's called the Mancunian Way. Admittedly, they don't have the same climatic issues that we do here, but having heard so many debates in Canada about What To Do With the Expressways it always did my heart good to ride my bike under the Mancunian Way on my way to work. Its considered and elegant design meant that it was beautiful to look at especially when standing directly under it--a classic piece of optimistic late modernist infrastructure. It always reminded me of a giant 60's coffee table.
[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/08
2005 10 06
Montreal Public Art on the Map

Artexte, one of the city's secret weapons as far as artists' archives go, has made the Navigateur Urbain even better by directly linking the map to Artexte’s Public Art database. If you visit you'll find yourself in the middle of an interactive map created by the geomatic division of the City of Montreal. This electronic tool has for some time offered a city map allowing users to rapidly obtain diverse useful information. Thanks to the work of Cécile Lointier, the librarian at Artexte, and documentalist Marie-Orphée Duval, the Navigator is now able to take you directly into the archival boxes that line Artexte's shelves.

By selecting a specific overlay on the Navigator, users can now pinpoint works of public art in the Montreal area which are accessible free of charge to the interested viewer. These include works from the collection of the City of Montreal, and projects sponsored by the Quebec Ministry of Culture’s policy for the integration of the arts with architecture and the environment (the “1%” projects). By clicking on the icon derived from Artexte’s logo, users can consult a descriptive file of the artwork, then continue their research with the combination of Artexte’s on-line resources. Another window ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by Rebecca Duclos on 10/06
2005 10 05
I seem to have lost my digital camera.

It would be easy to blame it on the fact that in the last three months I have lived in three different countires on two continents, moved between six semi-permanent residencies, as well as having schlepped and re-convened personal belonging between three separate storage facilities.

Freud (or was it Jung?) would say that every time one loses something, the thing you lose points to some deep psychological longing to be rid of that thing's referent. Keep losing your mother-in-law's phone number? Maybe you don't really want to see her (and her yappy dog) this weekend. Lose your wallet? Maybe you can't quite keep a handle on your identity.

So what what Freud have to say about a missing camera?

Was it a longing to stop seeing things mechanically 'remembered' for me? A latent desire to get back in touch with my old Pentax 35mm? Who knows.

A new friend of ours who runs a weekly 'vente garage' nearby, has a passion for remembering the artifacts in this neighbourhood. In fact, he has made it his personal mission to collect as much as he can in order to abate the loss of memories. He ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/05
2005 10 03
Patkau Wow

I was likely supposed to be knocked out by the huge volume of space and light that is the front hall/reception area at Patkau Architect's new Grande Bibliothèque in Montréal. I was meant to be embraced by the warmth of wood, the glow of light from a late fall afternoon, and I was to be inspired by the throngs of busy researchers glimpsed through a gigantic wooden screen.

But my first contact with the building was of a temporary canvas tarp. All the entrances of the building have been infected by a marquee virus--white carnival tents sit in front of every entrance for some unkown purpose. Were they keeping the rain out? My second experience of the library was seeing a long queue of people being waited upon by library staff. Librarians were busily engaged in signing people up for new library cards, and were thus stationed at temporarily installed conference-type tables piled high with computers. The lucky few clients whose numbers had been called were seated at folding card chairs.

How is it that a brand new building needs carnival tents at its entrances and triage approaches to administration? Five years in the making, and ninety seven million ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 10/03
2005 10 02
The Dog Walker
Image: Diana Shearwood

He's thirteen and I met him the first day we arrived in St. Henri. He was fascinated with our greyhound - le levrier or chien de course, as they are known here - and announced that he would like to walk him some time. That was three months ago and last night our young dog walker showed up at the door ready to go.

Today he came around again for the pick-up and we got to talking about the neighbourhood and Montréal in general. He was born in St Henri so I asked him, What do you do around here with your friends? And he started to talking about one place that was, in his words, Really Special.

His special place turned out to be an abandoned building along the Lachine Canal where he and his friends had found secret entry - he thinks it was an old brewery, but he wasn't sure. It didn't really matter to him. I asked him what was so special about this building and he said - Well, in this usine you go into a sort of hole and it's very dark - you need a light - so my friends bring ( more...)
[email this story] Posted by Rebecca Duclos on 10/02
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