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  1. IluvMTL

    Montreal Re-Imagined

    http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-re-imagined/montreal-reimagined-cityscape-is-more-than-only-a-view The Montreal Re-Imagined section is presented by Concordia University Concordia University Montreal Reimagined: Cityscape is more than only a view MONTREAL, QUE.: April 02, 2015 -- Logo staff mugshot / headshot of Luca Barone in Montreal Thursday April 02, 2015. LUCA BARONE, SPECIAL TO MONTREAL GAZETTE Until I graduated, my daily hike up to McGill’s Faculty of Law on the corner of Peel St. and Dr. Penfield Ave. began at the corner of de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., where I would emerge into daylight from the métro station. Ascending into the world from the underground takes a little readjusting: you look around to get your bearings, check the weather, and let your eyes readjust to the sunlight. I was never afforded much to look at until I began walking north up Peel and glimpsed the mountain. The east-west view along de Maisonneuve is disappointing. Look left or right and the view is the same: dark towers pockmarked with windows rise up on the horizon. When a building obstructs a view down a street and becomes the focal point of what you see, it is known as a terminated vista. They can be a blessing and a curse. They also can help create a sense of destination and diversity in a city and can be manipulated to highlight significant landmarks. The view of McGill’s campus against the backdrop of Mount Royal from McGill College Ave. is one of Montreal’s iconic landscapes. Looking south down St. Urbain St., the view of the Art Deco waterfall of the Aldred Building on Place d’Armes is another example of a successful blocked view that beckons rather than repulses, as is the view of the dome of the Hôtel-Dieu looking north along Ste-Famille. These landmarks create a sense of place and they are symbols of our city. But look south down Parc Ave. toward Place du Parc (the Air Transat building) and the view is hardly inspiring. When the view down a street ends in a blank tower, the terminated vista does not help create a more livable city. Not every building should be monumental or iconic, but any urban building should make you want to walk toward it rather than avert your eyes. Downtown towers should be built because they have many virtues, from proximity to public transit to the lower environmental effect of higher population density, but we should not ignore how these buildings relate to their surroundings. Uniformity should not be the goal, either: a building should not have to look exactly like its neighbours, but it should complement them. Without exaggerating the importance of the look and shape of buildings, Montrealers deserve more than what we’re getting from urban planners, architects and real estate developers. We should trudge out of the métro and be delighted by what we see. In a city full of talented architects, much of the blame for uninspired buildings lies with real estate developers who don’t hire local talent, and city councillors and urban planners who give construction permits without paying sufficient attention to buildings’ visual impact. The Louis-Bohème building on the corner of Bleury and de Maisonneuve is an example of a building that succeeds on many levels. Its apartments make the best use of the land by increasing the density of residents in the area. It also has underground parking and shops at ground level, from where you can also access the Place-des-Arts métro station. In many ways, the building represents exactly the kind of development Montreal needs. But it fails as an element of the urban landscape. When you see it rising above Parc or de Maisonneuve, the view of its charcoal concrete panels leaves you unmoved at best and intimidated at worst. In a city that suffers from interminable winters exacerbated by short days and little sunlight, buildings clad in light-absorbing, dark materials are not merely ugly — they should be considered a public health concern. One way to improve urban design would be to develop a sustainable local architecture that is responsive to our climate. Initiatives like the Quartier des Spectacles’ Luminothérapie winter light installations are a great start, but the city should take a more active role in promoting architecture that makes long winters more bearable. For example, Edmonton has issued specific winter design guidelines that promote architectural features that block wind, maximize sunlight, and enliven the cityscape as part of its “WinterCity Strategy.” It is not easy for a building to enrich its surroundings while responding to the demands of a city and its inhabitants, the climate and the economy. But our buildings speak eloquently about who we are and what we value. We have to live with them for decades, if not centuries. It’s worth getting them right sent via Tapatalk