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  1. http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Celine+Cooper+Montreal+city+state/9536579/story.html Montreal as its own city-state? BY CELINE COOPER, THE GAZETTE FEBRUARY 24, 2014STORY Quebec Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau, left, is applauded by Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, right, and members of the government after he presented his budget speech, Thursday, February 20, 2014 at the legislature in Quebec City. Photograph by: Jacques Boissinot , THE CANADIAN PRESS Greetings from Administrative Region 06. What’s that? Oh. You may know it by another name — Montreal, the second largest city in Canada. The economic hub of Quebec. The city that generates approximately 65 per cent of provincial tax revenues. One might assume that buoying a metropolis — investing in the human potential, entrepreneurship and global networking opportunities the city has to offer — would be a central plank in any provincial or federal budget. Then again, one might be wrong. Last Thursday, Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau tabled the 2014-15 provincial budget. In his budget speech in the National Assembly, Marceau stated that his government acknowledges Montreal’s unique status as the metropolitan economic engine of Quebec. His budget commits to the renewal of the province’s annual $25-million investment in the city. In anticipation of the 375th anniversary of Montreal in 2017, a total of $125 million is earmarked for four projects: Parc Jean Drapeau, Espace pour la vie, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History. But dig a little deeper and things start to ring hollow. For example, there is no detail regarding what Montreal will get back from these investments, or whether these projects may, in fact, increase the city’s operating expenses in terms of security, maintenance or infrastructure. On more pressing challenges facing Montreal, the budget doesn’t go far enough. There is $6 million set aside for fighting homelessness — an urgent concern for many residents of the city. But there is no new money allocated for social housing, public transit or immigrant integration, and no money earmarked for the retention of families on the island of Montreal. To be fair, it seems almost silly to take this budget seriously. No one expects it to be voted on in the National Assembly. Before Marceau had even completed his announcement, the Coalition Avenir Québec and the Liberals had roundly rejected it. Beyond the proposed increase in daycare user fees from $7 a day to $9 by 2015, it is non-controversial and lacking in detail. There are no general tax increases to irk voters. Detailed spending information is conveniently omitted. In short, this is less a budget than a financial framework for an election campaign. With the latest CROP poll putting the PQ into majority-government territory and MNAs headed for a two-week leave on Thursday, many expect an election to be called as early as this week. Either way, Marceau’s announcement gives voters an idea of how Montreal will be positioned symbolically (or not) in the coming electoral campaign. Why does this matter? With half of the province’s population concentrated here (close to 4 million people), our metropolitan area has some serious demographic heft. As Journal de Montréal columnist Benoît Aubin recently pointed out, if Montreal decided to go its own way and become the 11th province of Canada, it would be more populous than all the Atlantic provinces combined. Yet provincial governments across Canada — including Quebec’s — continue to take a relatively flat approach to budgeting. Despite our urbanizing world, cities are still seen as “creatures” of the provinces, just another administrative region on an electoral map — in Montreal’s case, Administrative Region 06. But in the imminent general election campaign, expect to see some pushback. Real acknowledgement of Montreal as Quebec’s metropolis means revising the fiscal arrangement between Quebec and Montreal and negotiating a meaningful devolution of powers from the province to the city. “It’s time a major economic engine of the province and the country is accorded more rights,” as Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre was quoted as saying in a Gazette article last week. Interestingly, François Cardinal, a columnist at La Presse, has emerged as one of the strongest, most coherent champions of giving Montreal more power. In an article titled Manifesto for a City State published recently in the journal Policy Options, he writes: “ … what Montreal needs is special treatment, more autonomy and more diverse sources of revenue. In short, it needs a premier who will stand on the balcony of City Hall and proclaim: “Vive Montréal! Vive Montréal libre!” On issues of both economy and identity, cleavages between Montreal and the rest of Quebec have been growing deeper. Although often dismissed as a pie-in-the-sky idea, I’m starting to see an increased momentum behind the idea of Montreal as its own city-state. As we head into an election, provincial parties would wise not to dismiss it out of hand. Twitter:@CooperCeline
  2. University draws inspiration from Chinese cultural heritage Following the concept of “Unity & Modernity”, the University Town Library and Administrative Centre in Shenzhen is the result of a winning design in an international limited competition. The facility was to become a "gateway icon" for the new campus shared by three graduate schools of renowned universities in China. The challenge involved putting three different banks of data under one roof as well as developing a unique approach to library design and knowledge sharing. The project was completed early 2007 and is open to the community, acting both as a public and academic library. Its mission aims to serve the local students, faculty members, corporate researchers and Shenzhen residents. With its long undulating form, the University Town Library meets all requirements needed for the administration centre, culturally symbolic of a "dragon's head", with the library tailing off as its body and the bridge undulating like a "rising dragon". Both library and administrative centre have a double function as pedestrian link and "intellectual bridge" between campuses, the whole set in a green valley-like landscape. Responding to the design brief became an exercise that went beyond the regular scope of programme response. The successful design of such a facility, acknowledged by three awards, reflects a new and innovative way to approach the storage, archiving and transfer of knowledge. RMJM believes the design process grew from the wealth of cultures shared by the talented multicultural and international professionals, their exposure to different cultures yet also the understanding of local demands. http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=11226